By Faridah Lule.

 

 

 

Behind Jimmy Akena’s newfound alliance with Kale Kaihura, (See “Kayihura accused of backing Akena” Observer May 16th) might have been a simplistic idea to avoid the almost annual teargas-saturated battles against the establishment.

Tear gas is known as “a lachrymatory agent, a chemical weapon that causes severe eye, respiratory, skin irritation, pain, vomiting, increased salivation, coughing, difficulty in breathing, excessive tearing, vision blurs and blindness.”

It stimulates the nerves of the lacrimal gland to produce tears. Lachrymatory agents are commonly used for riot control. Both tear gas and pepper spray are skin irritants, according to Demilitarize Health and security.

Now that we understand the effects, would any one stand to blame Akena’s moves? Yes, still, because indeed UPC has stood the test of time and built an identity more enduring than teargas anxieties.

Whereas an alliance is not an inherently bad thing, the manner it was executed raises more questions than answers. Uganda Peoples Congress is a party with structures, elders, lawyers and the constitution to guide. 

The bothering question now is, who else represented Uganda house when Akena and Nakasero were bargaining slots? My guess is that these negotiations most probably happened within the confines of Jimmy Akena’s residence, with drinks served by his minister-elect wife, Betty Amongi.

According to UPC’s lawyer Peter Walubiri, court annulled Akena’s leadership in 2015 and Justice Musota confirmed Olarra Otunnu as President until fresh elections.

More disappointing now is the fact that UPC has two parallel administrations; one led by Akena, Milton Obote’s son, and the other by former UN undersecretary general, Olara Otunnu.

Whatever happened to the court ruling? Who by law is negotiating for UPC’s legacy? Anyone has offers for the party? If there is indeed respect for rule of law, why did President Museveni decide to undermine the rightful leadership by pursuing conversations with an individual? Where does this leave Uganda’s opposition, these are the things that generate apathy among our politically interested young people, they wonder about the possibility of being traded in a political identity.

Democratic party for example has failed to overcome personal interest all these years, why, up to now, do we have two separate functions from the Green and White party? Can we conclude that Museveni did not effectively give nod to multi-party dispensation or should we say the seekers of this system did not understand the setting of multi-party politics?

Wouldn’t it be great if we enjoyed our multiparty privilege of being able to choose from chocolate, vanilla, strawberry? Ugandan political parties have indeed failed to model enough integrity sufficient to inform our flavor choices. Jimmy Akena and co should never forget UPC has an identity and legacy to protect, for God’s sake!  Forgetting this is the reason Jimmy Akena will go a long way in simply avoiding tear gas. We hope other parties are following the script.

 

The writer is the project Associate, Citizens’ Election Observation Network Uganda. CEON-U.

 

 

 

 

By Septemba Olga

Our Republic is described as a Democracy every so and then, but to what extent does this Democracy exist?

Rampant human rights abuses, some clearly seen, others hidden between paper work and fine print. Like the  NGO bill, which like 
Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of Chapter Four Uganda puts it, “If passed in its current form, it will obstruct the ability of all Ugandans to work collectively through local and international organizations on any research or advocacy that may be deemed critical of the government,” (Daily Monitor, April 21, 2015.)

This is the kind that is hiding grievances that will befall any who don’t abide 
by it, those who agree to it, and those who the organizations set out to help. 


Our government tries to be democratic and protect our rights, but it’s clear like former Nigerian president Olusegun Mathew
Okikiola Aremu, has noted, “it swings between dictatorship and authoritarianism and yet retains certain Democratic traits.”’


This balancing of intolerant dictatorship with democracy has come at a huge cost of our rights as Ugandans. Many government misdemeanors, like the recent social media blackout, have gone unchecked. Our rights to information on civil and political proceedings have been taken away. 

This has worsened, when almost anyone dissenting the establishment has been arrested or their property seized, many have mysteriously disappeared and others considered dead (only to resurface later, sometimes).

Police intimidation and harassment plus arrest of opposition leaders have further blurred the line between democracy and dictatorship, which, with the increased militarization of the police and on politics, is reason enough to worry about the state of this nation.

A writer in the weekly observer newspaper J.S.Ssentongo, puts it succinctly, “it is often the case that in trying to occupy positions of privilege in society, people justify or rationalize their claims. “

This was seen when the public Order Management Bill was brought forward, with the façade that it was for national security, yet it hindered opposition, activity, pushing back the freedom of speech, and expression.

The (Belated) Electoral Commission, which is supposed to ethically stand-alone and do its job, has lost some, if not, most of its credibility, all while ridden with suspicion and (accused) partisanship.

It is neither independent nor transparent, which makes it privy to being bent by someone else’s will and making decisions not in favour of the people.

This coupled with the abuse of article 67(3) of the constitution, which states that, “presidential candidates must be given equal time and space on state owned media to present their program to the people,” clearly shows how much our ‘democratic’ state has pushed aside and decided which rights are fundamental and which ones are not.

The state today is like what my father at home likes to remind me; “We don’t have democracy here, as long as you live under my roof, everything shall be as I say. ” Our country is a hybrid of the President, the military and ruling party, neither can be mentioned independently.

And if this narrative continues, who will deny that fundamental human rights are in crisis?

 The writer is a second year student of Ethics and Human rights, Makerere University, and currently an intern at Citizens' Coalition for electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU) 

By Faridah Lule.

Chapter 12 of the Constitution specifically talks about the National Security of Uganda. Article 221 specifically notes that security organizations should observe human rights. In detail (to the benefit of our dear security personnel) it explains, “it shall be the duty of the Uganda People’s Defence forces and any other armed force established in Uganda, the Uganda Prisons Service, all intelligence services and the national Security Council to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in their performance of their functions.”


                                               A Ugandan Police officer on duty. (Yahoo photo)

It’s on record however, both in print and video, that security personnel manhandling unarmed citizens not only contravenes the above but also is no longer news, in Uganda. The law is clear that a person is innocent until proved guilty, yet in Uganda, a suspect is proved guilty upon arrest.

There and then, security operatives take the law by manhandling often-civilian suspects.  Mob justice incidents usually get security agencies speaking up, urging Ugandans not to take “the law in their own hands”, yet we witness the opposite when Police apprehends civilians. Why for example is nobody, especially in our Investigation-obsessed Police, attempting to investigate Kiiza Besigye’s recent prison concerns?

NBS’s Remmy Bahati, Ingrid Turinawe are among the flood of Security harassment examples, to mention but a few. One particular attempt to engage the inspector general through Uganda Human Rights Commission has also met a dead end. Unprecedented impunity by security agencies is a concern Ugandans should not get reluctant asking about. Police should redesign its curriculum for the training of officers.

All said, the Constitution should not be implemented in as and when it pleases some individual. Our colleagues in security should uphold their public service mandate above emotions and reactionism; otherwise we won’t hesitate to ask. Have Security agencies taken up the Judiciary’s role?

The writer is the regional coordinator for Citizens Election Observer Network, Buganda Region.

By Moses Ngorok, Martha Chemba & Neona Kristina

 In true Big African man fashion, President Museveni during his inauguration speech on 12th May 2016 questioned the usefulness of the International Criminal Court (ICC); a court whose help he once sought in 2003 to deal with the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group then present in the northern part of his country. Equally to mention that Uganda is still signatory to the Rome statute, the law establishing the ICC while Domenic Ogwen, a Ugandan citizen is still under trial before the ICC.

In an act of reprimand, the US and European envoys attending the inauguration ceremony quietly glided out. The US envoy later explained themselves in a press conference that it was indeed in demonstration of the President Museveni’s ‘disparaging remarks’ about the ICC that they walked out.

It is the view of these authors that actions of Uganda’s President and the attending envoys led by US Ambassador Deborah Malac although mostly politically significant form the basis of a moral conundrum which these authors wish to explore.

 As a signatory to the Rome statute, Uganda’s legal and moral obligations under the semblance of International law are clear; Uganda must respect and uphold the provisions of the Rome statute. Consequently as head of state of Uganda, it is acting to the contrary for President Museveni to make the remarks he made on 12th May 2016.

Where therefore does the moral question lie concerning President Museveni’s actions on the day? We won’t provide footnotes here but if you googled this up, you will find an array of articles citing the increasing extent of dissent by African heads of state to the ICC—Kenya’s, Sudan’s and other African heads of state to be more euphemical than Uganda’s president was, think the ICC should go south! ; But should President Museveni be joining the queue?

 We mention above that Uganda is signatory and even mention that President Museveni has before utilized the services of the ICC to his and his country’s benefit. Why then a reversal in opinion?! ; sufficing that Museveni and his country are much entitled to a change in opinion! If the reader cares, another google search will bring you scours of articles where African leaders and others have termed the ICC discriminatory in as far as it seems to only target Africans—which statistically speaking is a very true assertion—only one arrest, indictment or issued warrant of arrest has been from outside Africa—that is from Georgia!

A change of mind or opinion is quite frankly alright were we daily see great advocacy initiatives for the respect of freedom of expression and right of belief. In this guise, probing President Museveni’s May 12th actions would seem to be choosing to work at cross purposes with the above key human rights values.  Redeeming the authors from this catch 22 situation though are an ancient English idiom legal maxim.“ You cannot have your cake and eat it as well”- the idiom says and “ He who comes to equity must come  with clean hands”- the legal maxim states. The former basically means that one cannot or should not try to have two incompatible things. The latter, is brief states that the law of equity or if you want to call it fairness, will not grant relief from a self-created hardship.

Both idiom and proverb are easily applicable to President Museveni’s lock of horns with the US government over the ICC.  In the context of the idiom, it rings of hypocrisy and is morally repugnant  for President Museveni to castigate the ICC  yet Uganda and Ugandans are relying on the ICC for justice.

How then about Ambassador Deborah Malac’s and by extrapolation, the US government’s actions?

 Unlike Uganda, the US government is only a signing state and not signatory to the Rome statute. It therefore under international law is not bound by the statute.  In this light it seems peculiar for the US to play watch dog for the ICC--that is to ensure state compliance with the provisions of the Rome statute.  The US government’s actions concerning the ICC are incompatible with the level of its legal commitments to the ICC. Why as a forerunner in war against terror and overall protection of human rights wouldn’t the US ratify the Rome statute? -  The compatibility of US ideals regarding human rights protection and those of the ICC are as good as bread and butter. To not have ratified the Rome statute is therefore quite quizzical. No surprise that there is with the statistical proof that exists, an emerging notion that the ICC is designed as  a court for Africa and Africans!

Adding to reservations about the motives of the ICC is the fact that unlike the US government’s thinks that ratifying the ICC would undermine its sovereignty,  it is seen that to the contrary,  the US  and other nations which are permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council seem to operate on higher ground when it comes to the implementation of the Rome statute. A method of institution of cases before the ICC is by referral of a case by the UN Security Council; a method that was applied to President Omar El Bashir’s case. As a permanent member of the UN security council, the US in effect therefore gets a say on who is to be tried or not tried by the ICC;  a court who jurisdiction  the US has yet to acknowledge!

In light of the idiom and legal maxim earlier elucidated upon, the US’s actions would seem to be contradicting its legal level of commitment to the Rome statute. Trying to superintend over a court whose jurisdiction one doesn’t not recognize would seem as hypocritical as President Museveni’s scathing remarks about the ICC have earlier been described.  

In the grand scheme of things though, it’s the political and not moral questions that matter, its issues of democracy and not theocracy that stand out. Politics in every way, the Democrats will have to forgive us ‘trumps’ reason, justice and morality. Where the very concepts and idea of the ICC as a court to accord justices to victims of war crimes and other gross acts of violence is important, is replaced with political objectives.

We cannot claim to know the true thoughts of either President Museveni or the US government on the ICC but what remains rife though is that each party’s actions on 12th May 2016 seem discordant with their current level of commitment to the Rome statute. It is our view that President Museveni and Uganda should do more to respect their duty as a signatory to the Rome statute and in the same way the US if it wishes to better play a watch dog/ superintending role concerning the ICC should legally commit itself more to the court- In this regard being both hot and cold won’t work for both parties.

 

 

 

 

History has it that, the establishment of the ICC spans over more than a century. The road to Rome was along and often-contentious one while the efforts to create a global criminal court can be traced back to the early 19th century. The story began in earnest in 1872 with Gustar Moynier one of the founders of the international committee of the Red-Cross who proposed a permanent court in response to the crimes of the Franco-Prussian war.

It has been 50 years since the UN first recognized the need to establish an international criminal court to prosecute crimes such as genocide in resolution 260 of 9th December 1948. Like Kofi Annan once put it, “In the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of Universal justice that is the simple and soaring hope of this vision. We are close to its realization, we will do our part to see it through till the end, we ask you to do yours in our struggle to ensure that no ruler no state, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity.

Only then will be innocents of distant wars and conflicts know that they too may sleep under the cover of justice, that they too have rights and that those who violate those rights will be punished. ” On 12th May 2016, President Museveni was at it again; he lashed out at the international criminal court for their discriminative tendencies. Referring to them as a “bunch of useless people” for their selective prosecution of world leaders. I pondered on what exactly holds the credibility of this great institution in balance?

The first warrant for arrest for Omar Hassan Ahmed al Bashir was issued on 4th March 2009, the second on July 2010; the suspect is still at large. In prosecutor Vs. Omar Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir, the Sudanese President is suspected of ten counts on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility under article 23(3)(a) of the Rome statute as an indirect co perpetrator. Five counts of crimes against humanity murder article 7(1), extermination article 7(1)(b), two counts of war and three counts of genocide by killing allegedly committed in Darfur, Sudan. Several requests have been put to different countries that he’s been hosted, including South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, DRC and Chad, to no avail. On 26th and 27th February 2014, Congo hosted Bashir, and on 7th and 8th August 2011, Bashir was in Chad.

Despite the fact that court issued requests to these countries to cooperate and arrest Bashir, none of them has complied to the court’s request yet they are all signatory to the Rome Statute, except Sudan. So who believes in this court at all, is it the West, Arabs, Africans, Asian or Eastern worlds? So many questions keep lingering in my head, why isn’t ICC investigating the people behind the killings that happened in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria? Who should be prosecuted for these murders just to help the people in these countries get justice?

Can one conclude that the approach ICC took is killing the vision of the court? I would concur with Human Rights Watch’s presentation that the personal, temporal and territorial jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) enables it to be engaged in a number of country situations simultaneously. To date, the prosecutor of the ICC has opened investigations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Darfur region of Sudan. In light of the court's jurisdiction, it is essential to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, objectivity and transparency in the selection of situations and cases by the prosecutor.

Such transparency enhances the ICC's credibility and maximizes its role in the fight against impunity. Utilizing objective criteria to assess whether certain cases merit investigation or prosecution is important to ensure that prosecutions before ICC do not appear selective. Relying on an objective threshold in assessing criminality avoids the danger of making comparisons between groups or individual perpetrators, and provides a clear rationale for the decision about whether to prosecute a specific case. In particular, once a determination is made that an individual accused meets the objective threshold for prosecution, then in principle a case should be brought forward even if the scale of the underlying crimes is not of the same magnitude as those of other defendants before the ICC.

But I have to get to the roots of this matter, Is it about prosecutor Bensouda, her administration, some resource envelope or it’s just that some leaders may indeed be “bigger” than the others, when it comes to crimes against Humanity? The discussion continues until we all get it right to have this court serve its purpose, and I guess those with skeletons in their closet better be prepared to face the International Criminal Court.

FARIDAH LULE

PROJECT ASSOCIATE CITIZEN’S ELECTION OBSERVERS NETWORK UGANDA.

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