A CALL TO ACTION BY UGANDAN CIVIL SOCIETY
Press Release on August 20, 2018, at Kampala
The 15th August 2018 Arua Municipality by-election to replace the slain Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga left a very huge scar in Uganda’s politics. The ugly events prior to and after this election have no place in any modern society, and in Uganda, a country touted to be playing a key role in contributing to stability and peace in the region.
During this particular episode there has been violent arrest, torture and mutilation of several Ugandans including ordinary citizens, Political Party Leaders, and Members of Parliament such as: Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi (Kyadondo East), Hon. Francis Zake(Mityana Municipality), Hon. Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo), Hon. Paul Mwiru (JinjaEast), Hon. Mike Mabikke (former Makinye East MP), and one of the contenders and MP Elect for the Arua Municipality, Hon.Kassiano Wadri. Other citizens who were arrested along including five womensuch as Jane Abola, Night Asara, Akira Maida, and Caroline Nalubowa have been tortured by men in uniform. Over 20 other young people, including juvenileswere arrested in Kamwokya, while trying to express themselves peacefully inresponse to this impunity. There have been several similar actions of torture in other parts of the country.
Several explanations have been presented to justify the inhumane and barbaric acts on those incarcerated. These range from illegal possession ofbasic and sophisticated military ammunition, vandalism of a Presidential vehicle, treason, among others. Several accounts of eyewitnesses that were present in Arua while all this transpired, present different and compelling evidence to these explanations. Reports indicate that security forces vandalized and confiscated personal property of those arrested (including vehicles) as well as the property of the hotel in which some of the victims were residing.
Most of those incarcerated were tried and remanded on charges of treason. Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi was charged in the Military Court Martial and remanded to Makindye barracks. Hon. Zaake was mysteriously dumped at Rubaga Hospital in an unconscious state to fight for his life, without any formal charge. Going by the reports given by those that visited most of these suspects, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission, it is clear the victims are not getting sufficient medical care. Night Asara for instance who was allegedly hit by a gun and stepped on several times on her stomach by security men, was presented in court in dire state and continues to be held by the state without adequate medical attention.
Fellow Ugandans, the events that have occurred in the last few weeks are not isolated, and we should not treat them in that manner. The Kasese massacres, the barbaric treatment of Members of Parliament as the constitution was being amended to remove presidential age limits, the tragic loss of lives in other by-elections and many other violent episodes are part of a trend we must stop to salvage our motherland. We must unite in condemnation, but also revive the calls for a national dialogue that will lead to justice, accountability and a new Uganda. As leaders in civil society, we would like to make the following calls:
- 1.The security forces, led by the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) should provide a list of all their officers that took part in this unprofessional conduct and present them to the courts of law for justice to be attained by all parties affected. Extrajudicial killings, torture and mutilation of citizens has never been part and parcel of the Terms of Reference of any security organ. In fact, the security forces, are enjoined to respect the rule of law; particularly Chapter Four of the Constitution on the Protection and Promotion of Fundamental and Other Human Rights and Freedoms and to follow and uphold them; specifically, Articles 22, 23, 24 and 44 on protection of a right to life; protection of personal liberty and freedom from torture respectively. The state also has a duty to protect as a global political commitment (Responsibility to Protect-R2P) which was endorsed by all member states of the United Nations in 2005.
- 2.The Courts should order for the immediate release on bail of all affected suspects to enable them receive decent and trustworthy medical care of their choice. Courts should also direct government to meet the medical bills of all those affected. It’s important to note that all of those detained have the right to humane treatment, due process, access to lawyers and to their families, and a prompt, fair, and transparent trial. Article 23(5) (b) and (c) of the Constitution provides that all detained persons shall have access to their next of kin, lawyer, personal doctor, and shall be allowed access to medical treatment, including, at the request and at the cost of that person, access to private medical treatment.
- 3.Parliament of Uganda should reclaim its position in Uganda’s governance and demand for a halt on the assault on it as an institution, but most importantly its Members. The continued brutality, harassment and torture of Members of Parliament is progressively undermining the institution of Parliament and rule of law. The Speaker of Parliament should thus work with the other arms of government to put a halt to this worrying trend, and consequently issue a statement assuring Ugandans of the steps they have taken to protect the sanctity of the institution of Parliament.
- 4.While its notable that Donors and International Partners have issued statements condemning these incidents, we are yet to see tangible actions that can lead to justice for the affected citizens. Ugandans need to see more concrete action from our development partners that confirm their belief in human rights and rule of law. An urgent Political Dialogue between the Government and the European Union foreseen under Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement should be held to ensure discussion and commitments to respect of human rights.
- 5.The Civil Society, including the Uganda Law Society, religious leaders, cultural institutions, media, trade unions and business community, NGOs and other actors should unite and mobilize their constituencies to denounce and provide solidarity actions with these affected citizens and their families. The following actions should be undertaken: a) request for an advisory opinion from the International Criminal Court for the perpetrators of these atrocities, b) organize solidarity visits to the prisons as well as families of the affected, c) use several platforms to denounce these injustices and court Ugandans to unite against this tyranny, d) ensure strict independent oversight on political and electoral processes.
- 6.The new generation should continue to act informed by conviction of its role to contribute to progress in the democratic process in keeping our national heritage and ensuring a link to economic transformation. Young people should thus be given ample space and all the relevant tools to make their contribution and secure their future. Young people should in addition unite and use their 78% majority of the Ugandan population to collectively defend their inheritance.
- 7.All Ugandans must be concerned that escalating political intolerance is a huge challenge to Uganda.This situation has impact on the economy, the productivity of citizens and our competitiveness as a country. We have to understand that these brutal incidents that are broadcasted around the world undermine our brand globally.
- 8.And finally,to the Head of State, it is incumbent upon you as the Fountain of Honor to reassure the citizens of Uganda and the whole world that Uganda Government respects its Constitution as well as the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all its citizens. According to Articles 24 and 44 of the Constitution “…No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment...” The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, gives effect to Articles 24 and 44(a) of the Constitution; to the respect of human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment by prohibiting and preventing any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. So far the Head of State has remarkably failed in this duty as Fountain of Honor by justifying the heinous crimes committed by the security forces.
- 9.We recall that when the Late Hon. Nebanda died, you reassured Ugandans that Government does not kill itsopponents. On the contrary, the killings in Arua, Bugiri, Mityana among others present a contrary picture to the world. As Commander in Chief, you must be more accountable and ensure that the security forces do not blatantly commit crimes without accountability. The victims and their families deserve an apology from Government, for the pain and trauma that the actions of security organs have caused to them.
- 10.We also invite all political leaders, including the President to embrace the efforts by peace loving Ugandans led by the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, the Elders Forum and several Civil Society Organizations to convene the National Dialogue for Uganda. We believe that in thisnational Dialogue process, there will be anopportunity for us as a people to discuss our past and current differences and arrive at a national consensus on how to manage our future challenges and how to treat each other as citizens of one country. Our diversity should be celebrated.Our diversity and differences should never lead to our demise.
- 11.As Civil Society, we shall continue to denounce all acts of violence by the state or directed towards it. More importantly, we are now called, more than ever before to offer the space for ordinary citizens to organize and work towards realizing a peaceful country, one in which we see equal opportunity and shared prosperity. We will remain in active thought about additional non-violent actions we can take together will all peace loving Ugandans to contribute to the above.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY
Essential to public confidence in the judiciary is the assurance that justice is not for sale and that legal disputes will be resolved by fair and impartial judicial officers and the independence of the judge is a requisite to guard the constitution and the rights of individuals i agree with Wal Mart and Alexandra. The fact that Ugandans had earlier predicted the outcome of the age limit ruling I would imagine if it was a football match, gaming companies would register a big loss to those who believe in betting.
The 2016 Presidential Election Petition No.1,Amama Mbabazi v Museveni and others at the Supreme court and now the president’s statement where he describes the decision on age limit by the judges as an undemocratic nonsense which focuses on form and procedure rather than substance plays out right. If the president does not believe in judges what about we Ugandans who had hopes in the five judges, in 2016 the supreme Court gave a directive to executive on electoral reforms the advocates thought there was green light since the justices all in agreement agreed to the Implementation of recommendations by the Supreme Court and said we note that most of the recommendations for reform made by this Court in the previous presidential election petitions have remained largely unimplemented.
They went ahead to say “We have nevertheless observed in this petition that the Rules require that the Attorney General be served with all the documents in the petition. We have further noted that the Attorney General may object to withdrawal of proceedings. Therefore the Attorney General is the authority that must be served with the recommendations of this Court for necessary follow up.” The Attorney General was to follow up on the recommendations made by this Court with the other organs of State, namely Parliament and the Executive.
The Attorney General shall report to the Court within two years from the date of this Judgment the measures that have been taken to implement these recommendations. The Court may thereafter make further orders and recommendations as it sees fit, surprisingly not even this last sentence has moved the Attorney general to start on the process of ensuring the constitutional review process is constituted. If the commission was to be constituted will it address the amendments made to article 105(b) of the constitution?
And if they do will the president issue another statement of the like to the constituted commission. Article 119 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provides that the Attorney General of Uganda shall be a cabinet minister appointed by the president with the approval of Parliament. Can the commission if constituted have article 119 (1) of the Constitution be amended and consider rewriting the role of the Attorney General in Uganda in advancing constitutionalism and the rule of law.
According to Godfrey M. Musila, a Research Fellow at the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC) in his Article, the Office of the Attorney General in East Africa: Protecting Public Interest through independent prosecution and Quality Legal Advice the Attorney General is the main legal adviser to the government and in some jurisdictions may in addition have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.
Very soon the Electoral Commission will unveil its roadmap after the court ruling in Mbale, the question is are we ready to go into another election when the issue of electoral reforms is not addressed should judiciary react now or wait for another petition to make another recommendation. Should Ugandans take it that the attorney general will not uphold the decision of the court not to kick start on the process of constituting a constitutional review process? Will Ugandans push government to adopt the electoral reforms on its Agenda as one of its priority areas of concern .
It’s not too late for the judiciary to shine it’s now or never, i end with a quote "The founders realized there has to be someplace where being right is more important than being popular or powerful, and where fairness trumps strength. And in our country, that place is supposed to be the courtroom. “Sandra Day O’Connor
By Faridah Lule
Analyst Elections & Learning CCEDU
I have followed the discussions around the Age-Limit ruling with keen interest. I have also read the thoughts of President Museveni on the same. Given the political context of Uganda, last week’s Constitution Court decision was easily predictable. It was not surprising that the Court delivered a verdict in favor of lifting the age limits for presidential candidates.
The mere fact that even mama mboga down the street could have predicted (with precision) the ruling, it tells a lot about the Country’s judicial system as well as the existent pulls and pressures at play. At the heart of the perceptions around the ruling is the sense that the Court could not have ruled differently given the circumstances and political context.
The age limit ruling in Mbale was more of political than legal. Politically, the majority of Parliamentarians that voted for the removal of age limits were ‘thrown under the bus’ by the benefactor and sole beneficiary of the age limit amendment law – the incumbent President. I hope this awakens the consciousness of Parliamentarians to understand for whom and with whom they legislate. If there was any invisible, it is slowly but surely becoming visible. The veil is lifting. The judgment in many respects inadvertently overturned the multi-party democratic political system and reset the country to individualistic political practices. Court’s interpretation of the law and the processes towards the amendment paid special focus on the individual of the president.
The fear to hurt the interests of President Museveni could have affected the objectivity of the Court’s conclusion in some respect. Looking at how some of the judges justified aspects such as the military attack on Parliament, the inadequate consultations (on the bill), it was clear that elements of ‘rule of law’ can now be subject to negotiation; truths can be evidenced with alternative facts; and belief systems can now be fashioned to provide legal and political legitimacy whenever need arises. The ruling has unquestionably created a tension between democracy and aspects of judicial review. Democracy should be in form and substance, and not in mere historicizing and posturing.
Citizens should be and feel represented across the entire spectrum of government. The effects of the judgment will be far-reaching. The ruling was a nod to self-styled ‘rule for life’. Although the judgment of the Constitutional Court is legal – for now, it remains largely inconsistent with legitimate expectations and may continue to face legitimacy problems. There is, unfortunately, no quick fix to the current trend of things. What we are seeing at the moment is akin to a political project that is determined to manipulate the strict etiquette of rule of law; a project that is resolved to obliterate functional institutions and their independence; and a scheme that exclusively emboldens a self-perpetuating attitude over broad citizen interests.
In the face of a tide to perpetuate individual and self, over state and nation, the urgent need for a genuine, united citizens’ ‘movement’ to change the trajectory that Uganda is taking cannot be underestimated. I am talking about a ‘movement’ that transcends politics and partisan identities; and organizes around issues and causes that affect Ugandans, Africans and humanity – broadly. I am speaking about a ‘movement’ that includes rather than excludes; a ‘movement’ that unites and not divides.
I am referring to a ‘movement’ that does not demonize its followers rather one that seeks to rally common-cause around issues of broad interest; a ‘movement’ that ‘lives’ rather than ‘leaves’ the ideals of pan-Africanism, patriotism, democracy etc. It is that ‘movement’ that will capture the imagination and hearts of the public and sail the Country through these un-usual political times. Again, we must remember that, it was Ugandans in the first place who changed the course of Uganda and not just government or institutions of the state. Only Ugandans can change Uganda – not Courts of law.
Article published by Intel Post
On Thursday, Ugandans in seven new municipalities elected six MPs in Sheema, Nebbi, Bugiri, Apac, Kotido and Ibanda, and a mayor in Njeru.
There were reports of violence and the usual allegations of rigging, bribery and voting beyond the permissible time.
Unlike in previous elections, one ingredient that Ugandans were accustomed to was missing – observation of the elections and constant reporting by the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) on happenings across the country.
CCEDU, a coalition of thousands of civil society organisations and individuals spread all over the country, has since 2009 built capacity to observe and report on elections, and has in a number of cases helped to blow the whistle on misdeeds during elections.
Over the years, areas of conflict built up between CCEDU and the Electoral Commission, with some officials of the Electoral Commission accusing CCEDU of being partisan in the way it observes elections.
CCEDU insists that it is objective in its election observation and voter education practices, and cites a number of examples of when it has productively fed into the positive conduct of elections, including when they mobilised Ugandans to register for the 2016 elections.
CCEDU has also pointed out that as the Electoral Commission accuses it of being partisan, an accusation it denies, it is not lost on many that the Electoral Commission has itself been accused by a number of players, chiefly the Opposition parties, of being partisan, in favour of the ruling party.
The fallout climaxed with the suspension of CCEDU’s license to conduct voter education and observe elections, which happened in the lead up to the village elections that took place earlier this month.
As a result, the village chairpersons and women leaders elections, coupled with the elections in the municipalities that happened on Thursday, have taken place without any official observer.
It is important to note that Uganda is party to a number of regional and international arrangements that recognise observing elections as an important ingredient of electoral democracy. It is an important way to ensure the movement towards free and fair elections. The Electoral Commission cannot be referee and observer at the same time.
Even during national elections when foreign observers come into the country, they come too late and remain thinly spread on the ground, unable to tell the real picture.
This is why the Electoral Commission and CCEDU should speedily resolve this impasse and reinstate citizen observation of elections as soon as practicable.
Article Published by The Daily Monitor.
CCEDU is calling for an urgent meeting with it's members and partners to discuss the Electoral Commission's suspension of CCEDU accreditation to participate in Election related activities . The meeting will take place on th 12July 2018 at at the CCEDU offices in Nsambya, Kampala. Kindly join in.