About a month ago, government slapped three counts of murder charges against MPs; Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North), and one count of attempted murder in connection with the spate of killings in Greater Masaka region, that left at least 26 people killed by machete wielding goons.
On their second appearance in court two weeks later, the charge sheet was amended to include two offences of terrorism, and aiding and abetting terrorism.
With these grave charges that attract death by hanging as the highest punishment, the State did not stop there but re-arrested the MPs on separate occasions upon their release from Kigo government prison in Wakiso District.
They were detained and on Wednesday this week, one more charge of murder was slapped against them when they reported back to Masaka Chief Magistrate’s Court.
The elephant in the room is, why bring offences against the legislators in piecemeal manner?. Why can’t the State, acting through the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), bring at once even if 100 charges against the MPs at once.
Not only did the charges brought later against the legislators frustrate the bail but it’s unconstitutional to stagger charges against accused persons.
In August 2020, the Constitutional Court held that it’s unconstitutional to split cases against a suspect arising from the same facts.
The majority decision of the court, was in regard to an application filed by the convicted former accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister, Geoffrey Kazinda whom the State had staggered several corruption charges against him but arising from the same facts.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka while appearing before Parliament to respond to emerging issues surrounding the brutal re-arrest of the legislators, said the two MPs would continue to be arrested as and when they commit more offences.
If we claim to be a democratic state as we do, the piecemeal manner of charging the MPs shows an element of bad faith and at the same time casts government in bad light.
Even a lay person will clearly see that the intention by the State is to persecute these MPs, probably for their dissenting political opinions, but not to prosecute them, which shouldn’t be the case in the 21st century.