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)