Is Uganda’s Constitution being slowly but surely undermined?

On Friday, August 17, the New Vision, carried a story titled ‘Arua Polls: Museveni says MPs must face the law.’ This was days after the killing of Yasin Kawuma, not to mention the arrest and detention of several Members of Parliament, some of whom have been reportedly brutalised at the hands of security personnel.
When the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces and the Fountain of Honour, spoke about the incident, with no resolve to bring to book the security personnel who caused the arrest and brutalised the MPs, I could not help but wonder whether he had a clear recollection of the facts on the ground as the Head of State.
How could he speak up against violence by unarmed (forget the alleged finding of weapons in their rooms) civilians and yet keep a blind eye on the acts of the security personnel? This was a violation of the victims’ fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
Article 20(2) of the Constitution, guarantees respect, promotion and the upholding of certain individual rights and freedoms by all organs and agencies of government and by all persons. These rights are inherent and not given by the State.
Assuming the MPs and others are suspects for serious criminal offences for which they must face the law, would this justify the brutality meted on them? What happened to the presumption of innocence until proved guilty? Article 21(1) clearly provides for the equality of all persons before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect.
It also guarantees citizens equal protection of the law and Article 22(1) bars intentional killings except in execution of a sentence passed in a fair trial by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda and for which a conviction and sentence have been confirmed by the highest appellate court.
These are provisions of the Constitution of Uganda, which is the highest law of the land and which the President undertook to protect and defend. The State is duty-bound to protect these Constitutional rights. However, our security forces are infringing on them with no grain of shame and the Commander in Chief, has instead declared the need for the brutalised MPs to face the law.
So is the law meant to protect a given section of individuals and not others? What does this mean for members of the Opposition and the wananchi going forward? Who will bring to book those responsible for the killings and brutality? Who will meet the hospital bills and pay for the lost lives?
The President has on many occasions labelled past leaders (Amin and Obote) all sorts of demeaning names. However, while Yasin Kawuma’s death was triggered by an alleged stone throwing incident at the President’s convoy, history has it that in 1969, Dr Apollo Milton Obote was shot in the head through the mouth in an assassination attempt by a one Sebaduka, but his government did not kill or brutalise him. Instead, Sebaduka and his accomplices were subjected to due process of the law.
In a situation such as where we are in today - where political campaigns are quickly turned into criminal scenes, any form of peaceful protest against bad governance is labelled as criminal, fundamental freedoms and rights suppressed, one cannot help but conclude that the practices of the governing authority are undermining the Constitution, which they are duty bound to uphold and defend. What options do our elected political leaders leave for the wananchi?

Ms Kajoba and advocate
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