State must not regress on rule of law

Acclaimed novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija 

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Rule of law
  • Our view: For as long as we still have courts of law sitting and dispensing justice, there must be hope. Security operatives must comply with the courts before they regress beyond redemption.

Acclaimed novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was by press time since held incommunicado by security operatives. Arrested last week in what Police said was for offensive communication under the Computer Misuse Act. The charges are related to his social media engagements targeting the President and members of his family, Rukirabashaija has only been seen and heard from once – on Monday when he was driven to his Iganga home for a search.

The manner of detention without trial was already grave enough, especially after it emerged that the novelist turned up weak, in bloodied clothing and complained of torture, during the search of his home on Monday, according to his lawyer. But what aggravates the situation and is of graver concern is the fact that Rukirabashaija has remained out of touch even after court ordered for his immediate and unconditional release.

The abhorrent nature of repression and impunity with which the State security acts in total disregard of the same law and Constitution they vow protect is repulsive. This is a government that was defined by the democratic ideals it preached from the 1980s until the late 1990s. Indeed, the government made efforts, to live bywhat it preached.

However, the creed has been regressing into worse and worse caricature with each passing year. Ugandans have seen security operatives kidnap suspects freed by courts right in front of the Temple of Justice many times that what is happening to Rukirabashaija, who was never arraigned before the Makindye Chief Magistrate’s Court that ordered his release, is hardly shocking.

But then therein lies the danger. The laws of nature dictate that it is scarier for the Kite when the Mother Hen does not fight back when its Chicks are snatched. This is just one of the malaise in a deepening democratic crisis.

It is one thing to be wary of Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Robert Kyagulanyi. The two are Opposition figures who command a lot of audience beyond the borders and the seas. But for a writer who can hardly command the attention of 10 random folks in downtown market, the manner with which the State has acted shows they are increasingly scared of everything and anything, the pen inclusive.

But it is never too late to make things right. The State must not act like it is beyond redemption. The rule of law that the government continues to preach can never be entirely a lost cause. For as long as we still have courts of law sitting and dispensing justice, there must be hope.

Security operatives must comply with the courts before they regress beyond redemption.

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