For Uganda's Salvation Restore Constitutional Rule
Uganda's Gen Museveni believes his wishes supercede the Constitution
In this ongoing series The Black Star News continues to invite commentary from Ugandan citizens on how to move the East African country away from autocracy to the rule of law and democratic governance.
The political environment in Uganda can be best understood by examining how the multiparty system works, the essence of media and civil society and the handling of public resources and funds.
Multiparty dispensation was ushered in Uganda in the year 2000. Regardless of what is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Yoweri Museveni regime restricts the operation of opposition parties, their leaders and supporters. The parties are prohibited from holding rallies, sponsoring or offering a platform seeking public opinion. Security operatives are illegally used to crush any voices of dissent with innocent citizens enduring physical abuse and detention for exercising their democratic rights in attending peaceful rallies and protests.
Take for example the Public Order Management Bill (POMB), now a duly recognized law, carries therein a clause intended to be used to clamp down on the voices of the opposition. Within the POMB, only the Inspector General of Police (IGP) can issue permission to hold public rallies or meetings and the minister for internal affairs has discretionary powers in sentencing those deemed to have acted in contravention of said law.
Furthermore, multi-party political dispensation is curtailing the participation of and progress of women’s issues in parliament as stated by women legislators in the government newspaper New Vision, on 17th July.
The women legislators under their umbrella body, the Uganda women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), expressed concern that they are constrained in their work to push for the women's causes by the requirement to abide by their parties' positions.
"Because the party brought you to Parliament it can discipline you if you go against its position," Kole District Woman MP, Ruth Acheng said at a high level dialogue on "Leadership with a Difference" organized by Isis-Women's International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) held in Kampala.
Grace Isingoma (Isingiro) said, "The Multi-party dispensation has affected our participation." She said that at times women MPs appreciate contribution by their colleagues from other political parties, but cannot come up to support them openly for fear of the consequences.
The legal adviser of the Democratic Party, who is also the chairperson of the East African Legislative Assembly, Freddie Mukasa Mbidde, was once quoted as follows: “In Uganda today there is no multi-party dispensation at all, we only have registered political parties but their views and intentions under which they registered for cannot be achieved.”
Uganda has a diverse and active civil society: for example, Human Rights Watch, with a vibrant media network in operation all over the country, including independent media. All those critical of the Kampala regime, despite the fact that Constitution allows for freedom of independent press, are subjected to harassment, detention, seizure of material and temporary closures.
Many journalists have been left with no choice but self-censorship, leaving the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) through the Museveni regime to enjoy monopoly.
Furthermore, the regime disseminates the message that opposition political parties are destructive, sectarian and are the ones responsible for Uganda’s woes.
For the last 30 years, Uganda has witnessed unprecedented levels of corruption. The merciless robbery of Uganda’s resources, including donor funds, means there are many regions that have suffered and continue to suffer severe marginalization by the government.
People continue to suffer as a result of: the senseless and protracted war in Acholi region; the favoritism for citizens from Western Uganda and to a lesser extent Southern regions, in accessing public employment opportunities; the bias representation in appointments to key positions in the army, government and judiciary. These threaten to be the downfall of President Museveni.
The regime has clung on to power through election-rigging and blatant bribery whereby elections are bought with cash stuffed in "brown envelops"; even Members of Parliament accepted $2,800 each to vote to remove presidential term limits from the Constitution.
Uganda was dealt a huge embarrassment when foreign governments started to demand that Uganda pay back misused aid money.
In my opinion the way forward for Uganda is peaceful political change to an administration that will restore the rule of law, reinstate presidential term limits, respect the Constitution and support the interests of all regions in Uganda irrespective of which region the President is from.
It is desirable for the youth and other activists to cooperate with each other in different parts of the country; centralizing activities only to Kampala cannot yield meaningful results. Coordinate activities and conceive ideas, for example translate and explain the Constitution in rural areas so that all citizens are aware of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Only then can the ordinary man rise up with one voice and say, enough!
After people understand their rights as enshrined in the Constitution can ordinary citizens demand service delivery, schools with scholastic material for our children, medicines in our hospitals, clinics and dispensaries, beds for our patients, maternity care for our mothers, security for the citizens, and safe roads.
Nyamugabwa is a Teacher in Uganda
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