UGANDA: WHY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY

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The run up to the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections was from the outset characterized by unprecedented levels of police and military interference, mass detentions without charge, harassment of Opposition leaders and supporters and a general air of the criminalization of dissenting or alternative opinion.

From within the NRM establishment to the broader political arena, terror, brute force and fear-mongering was the order of the day. In a most brazen manner, political contestation and engagement were constructively proscribed in what came to be (infamously) known as the "Sole Candidature" of Gen. Yoweri Museveni.

This in spite of a sustained citizens’ campaign for electoral reforms and a raft of other civic- and voter-education drives such as "Topowa" and "Votability." In the international press, stories abounded (as they still do) about the drastic and worrisome constriction of civil and political space in Uganda. Development partners have maintained a unanimous voice of concern about this state-of-affairs.

With every passing day, it was all the more apparent that the much-anticipated election was at best going to be a ritual, and at worst, an unmatched exhibition of electoral fraud, state-inspired violence and intimidation.

Not even the most cynical of pessimists could predict the magnitude of the outrage that the 2016 franchise epitomized. Everything that could possibly go wrong in an election did go wrong.

From the non-delivery of electoral materials to numerous locations in the metropolitan and surrounding areas, to the unheard of act of jamming social media platforms, to the raiding of political party offices by rabid armed men dressed in police and military uniform, to the mass arrests of Opposition political party agents, observers, journalists and voters alike, the entire process had been bungled irreparably.

But there was nothing to stop the Badru Kiggundu-led Electoral Commission from going ahead with announcing the contested, unverified and inconsistent results, particularly at the level of president.

Little wonder that the final "results" were announced while two of the eight presidential candidates were under house arrest. The loud and uneasy silence of the entire country aptly captured the mood.

Spurious attempts at celebrations of Gen Museveni’s alleged "win" fell flat on their face.

Commenting on these regrettable developments, the Forum for Democratic Change party president, Hon. Mugisha Muntu noted—and rightly so—that this was a creeping coup and an overthrow of the Constitution that had been orchestrated by Gen. Museveni and his henchmen.

Close to two months later, the stalemate persists. On the one hand, the citizens of Uganda, both at home and abroad, have in more ways than one expressed their inimitable dissatisfaction at the stolen election; they have engaged in peaceful demonstrations, signed petitions, spoken out through the electronic and print media as well as sought divine intervention to undo the impasse and redeem their vote(s).

On the other hand, the regime has responded with a renewed but characteristic tone of arrogance and impunity against the will of the people of Uganda. Regime functionaries have gone into overdrive insulting, intimidating or seeking to arrest or cause the arrest of any person or group of persons who object to the illegitimate establishment’s occupation of state institutions and deparments.

The regime has stepped up its reliance on force. Columns of armed police and soldiers have become a daily sight in towns and villages. Atop a number of Kampala’s elevated locations, surface-to-air missiles and other heavy weapons systems have been mounted. This is to say nothing about the teargas and water cannon trucks along major routes in the city and its outskirts.

The latest tool is the use of obnoxious court orders to rule by law and decree. Media coverage of the citizens’ defiance campaign has been banned! Scores of citizens have been rounded up and detained for praying to God—the most peaceful of actions; one wonders what the regime will direct the captive courts to ban next. The rule of law is conspicuous in its absence.

The proposition for a National Dialogue has been mooted by civil society organizations but the establishment could not possibly care less. They simply shrug it off asking what the point of a National Dialogue is yet they "won" the election resoundingly and are “in charge.”

In light of the above-mentioned occurrences, and of the possibility that this situation can degenerate further if no decisive action is taken by the formal Opposition and Civil Society Organizations of Uganda in terms of offering leadership, a Government of National Unity has been established to assert the will of the people as well as be the steward for the country’s emergence out of the obtaining malaise.

This bold step is not only justified on political grounds; it is supported by the Kelsenian Theory of a Revolution in Law which states that an act or an event gains legal validity where it challenges and successfully replaces the existing legal order of the day. Hans Kelsen states that an existing establishment can be altered or removed by a political revolution such as the one that has occurred in Uganda. This is further fortified by the countrywide legitimacy, acceptance and support that the Government of National Unity enjoys both within and without the Ugandan territory.

Sections of the American Declaration of Independence are particularly instructive:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,— _That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Our 1995 Constitution of Uganda which has been the subject of so many attacks by the NRM Establishment is in consonance with the spirit of the American Declaration of Independence. Article One, under the heading (Sovereignty of the People) enacts to the effect that:
(1) All power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution.
(2) Without limiting the effect of clause (1) of this article, all authority in the State emanates from the people of Uganda; and the people shall be governed through their will and consent.
(3) All power and authority of Government and its organs derive from this Constitution, which in turn derives its authority from the people who consent to be governed in accordance with this Constitution.
(4) The people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and how they should be governed, through regular, free and fair elections of their representatives or through referenda.

The 1995 Constitution further seeks to protect the Sovereignty of the People by commanding thus:
(1) It is prohibited for any person or group of persons to take or retain control of the Government of Uganda, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(2) Any person who, singly or in concert with others, by any violent or other unlawful means, suspends, overthrows, abrogates or amends this Constitution or any part of it or attempts to do any such act, commits the offence of treason and shall be punished according to law.
(3) This Constitution shall not lose its force and effect even where its observance is interrupted by a government established by the force of arms; and in any case, as soon as the people recover their liberty, its observance shall be reestablished and all persons who have taken part in any rebellion or other activity which resulted in the interruption of the observance shall be tried in accordance with this Constitution and other laws consistent with it.
(4) All citizens of Uganda shall have the right and duty at all times—
(a) to defend this Constitution and, in particular, to resist any person or group of persons seeking to overthrow the established constitutional order; and
(b) to do all in their power to restore this Constitution after it has been suspended, overthrown, abrogated or amended contrary to its provisions.
(5) Any person or group of persons who, as required by clause (4) of this article, resists the suspension, overthrow, abrogation or amendment of this Constitution commits no offence.
(6) Where a person referred to in clause (5) of this article is punished for any act done under that clause, the punishment shall, on the restoration of this Constitution, be considered void from the time it was imposed, and that person shall be taken to be absolved from all liabilities arising out of the punishment.

The 1995 Constitution of Uganda is a living document that possesses the inherent power of revolution in its letter and spirit. It not only protects but also fortifies the Sovereignty of the People of Uganda as stipulated in the foregoing.

The NRM Establishment which took control of the state of Uganda using the force of arms from February 18 through to February 21 and maintains the same illegal and illegitimate possession of Uganda is committing a continuing violation of not only the Constitution but the sacred will of the people of Uganda. The People of Uganda have peacefully but firmly expressed their rejection of the NRM-led military occupation of Uganda. They have in no uncertain terms stated their objection to Gen. Museveni’s imposition of his junta on an unwilling and increasingly ungovernable population that seeks political change.

It is for this reason that in obedience to the unequivocal command of the Constitution, the internationally recognized theories of law and Declarations made by other free and democratic societies, a Government of National Unity is duly and hereby established and constituted over the entire territory of Uganda with a view to laying the foundations for National Dialogue that will lead to a definitive political settlement which shall be the basis for a free, democratic and prosperous Uganda in which every citizen has equal opportunity and dignity befitting of a human being.

DECLARATION:

We, therefore, the above-named persons do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the Sovereign People of Uganda, solemnly publish and declare and establish the Government of National Unity of the Republic of Uganda with a view to laying the foundations for National Dialogue that will lead to a definitive political settlement which shall be the basis for a free, democratic and prosperous Uganda in which every citizen has equal opportunity and dignity befitting of a human being.

So help me God!

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