Caption for the landscape image:

Letter to Hon Norbert Mao

Scroll down to read the article

Author: Moses Khisa. PHOTO/FILE

Dear Ndugu Norbert,

Greetings! I hope this note finds you well and in good health. I should like to start by congratulating you on your new marriage. Many blessings. Finding a spouse is special. My very best wishes. 

Also, belated congratulations on your appointment into Mr Museveni’s Cabinet as Minister of Justice. I did not believe it was a wise decision to accept to serve in the current government precisely because the President seeks out brilliant individuals like you to work for his power pursuits, not to work with him for the good of the country. 

I have no doubt that you mean well in stepping forward to provide leadership in the government running our country, but the rulers who are in charge of the levers of state power have their agenda, it’s one of clinging onto power in perpetuity and at all costs.

Ndugu Norbert, I have been meaning to write to you on a number of issues, including the question of the national dialogue and how to imagine a transition to move the country forward, something that I was privileged to debate with you when Mr Robert Kabushenga hosted us on his Twitter (X) Space. 

Today, Uganda sits at a particularly dangerous crossroads with simmering social tensions and a broken political system unable to deliver on the most pressing needs of the public. This is a matter to which I wish to return in the future in another letter addressed to you. 

For now, I wish to speak to a recent event of the broad-day and brazen kidnap of a Member of Parliament (MP), Paul Akamba. Before his arrest, along with two others on allegations of corruption, I had never heard of this name. I don’t know anything about him. And I’m uninterested in knowing because the issue at hand is the principle, not the person. 

It is plain unconscionable for an MP to be kidnapped as he exits court, in fact is still within the precincts of court, the kidnap done dramatically and violently. It was a despicable scene. Utterly shameful. Not new, of course. 

The same lawless acts were on full display against two Opposition MPs, Muhammed Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana. For long, this has been done against many individuals associated with the wider Opposition to the current rulership, including supporters of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party. 

You may recall the infamous PRA treason case, starting in 2005, when Dr Kizza Besigye and more than a dozen co-accused, including his young brother, Joseph Musasizi Saasi, who were denied the freedom duly granted to them by the High Court. They were repeatedly rearrested or compelled to return to prison fearing kidnap, including during the infamous November 2005 Black Mamba siege on the High Court premises in Kampala. 

Dr Besigye and his family strongly believe that the extralegal conduct of State operatives and the torpedoing of due process ultimately caused the untimely death of Mr Saasi.

If we had been a serious country, fully committed to the norms and standards of the rule of law of which due process is a cardinal principle, within hours of the macabre kidnap of MP Akamba, the Director of Public Prosecutions should have issued a stern statement against the kidnapping.

The Judiciary must have spoken out strongly, so should Parliament. And you, Ndugu Norbert, as the political head of the judicial branch of government must have forcefully called out and unequivocally condemned such dastardly acts that grossly offend basic tenets of modern government. 

I know nothing about policing and law enforcement, but I can easily list five different ways that the State’s intelligence and criminal investigations apparatus would have gone about re-arresting MP Akamba in a proper and professional manner without engaging in an archaic and appalling display of raw power.

Ours is a country of many problems which require rugged bodies and concerted minds at work. To focus on our most pressing problems, we can do better not to normalise lawlessness and the needless exercise of the power of the gun. 

What is more, silence in the face of wrongdoing is complicity. It is prudent that we all stand in support of upholding principles of justice including the presumption of innocence and the right to due process. 

As a ruling party MP, it is likely that MP Akamba not too long ago did not imagine he would be a victim of brazen kidnapping. But the dark alley of lawlessness can take in anyone, anytime. It could be me or you, Ndugu Norbert, tomorrow. 

The current rulers too may very well find themselves on the receiving end of the same culture of impunity and rule-by-the-gun they have superintended and entrenched. We only need to recall the fate of Grace Ibingira, architect of the infamous detention-without-trial law during the first Milton Obote government.

Ndugu Norbert, enough for now, but I hope to talk to you soon!