Uganda: Citizens Use Defiance To Resist Lawless Militarized Regime

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Hail Gen. Museveni. Since discovery of dozens of bodies on the shores of Lake Victoria in December, evoking memories of Amin regime, Ugandans have become more defiant

[Africa: Uganda Elections 2016]

Defiance is to restore the rule of law.

The rule of law consists of institutions, laws and practices established to prevent arbitrary use of power including in civil and political affairs.

These institutions and processes may not function properly in places where corruption and abuse of power exist. When exercise of these rights is constrained, the people have a right to restore them using a variety of instruments including defiance.

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination”.

Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is binding on member states including Uganda which is a signatory states “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights in the present Covenant”.

Article 4 (m) of The Constitutive Act of the African Union calls for “Respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance”.

Article 59 (3) of the 1995 Uganda Constitution on the right to vote states “The State shall take all necessary steps to ensure that all citizens qualified to vote, register and exercise their right to vote”.

The National Resistance  Movement (NRM) government under Gen. Yoweri Museveni, ruler of 30 years, has violated many of these principles and laws.

The full right to assemble and campaign freely in any place has been violated. The absence of an independent Electoral Commission is a major handicap. The security forces have for all intents and purposes become a branch of the ruling National Resistance Movement Party.

Police brutality against the opposition parties is reported regularly during the ongoing presidential campaign including the firing of live bullets reported today against supporters of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye's supporters; the violence is increasing as the election date draws closer.

We have seen women political leaders assaulted or stripped naked and tossed on police pickups mercilessly by the police.  

In defense of its political rights to campaign and vote freely in the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for February 18, 2016, the FDC has legitimately adopted the concept of defiance to ensure it exercises its full political rights.

However, the concept has been interpreted differently. Those in the NRM ruling party are interpreting defiance as if FDC intends to use force during and after elections thereby threatening national security.

In response various officials including the chairman of the electoral commission, Badru Kiggundu, the chief of defense forces Gen. Katumba Wamala, the inspector general of police Gen. Kale Kayihura and now the prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda are sending signals of what they may do in the event violence by opposition erupts during or after the elections.

But the definition of defiance does not include violence. According to the World Book Dictionary defiance is:

1.     The act of defying; standing up against authority and refusing to recognize or obey it; open resistance to power.2.     A challenge to meet in a contest, to do something or to prove something.According to Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defiance is:1.     A defying; open bold resistance to authority or opposition2.     A challenge.3.     Rejection, refusal.

From these two authoritative dictionaries defiance is a reaction in societies where the rule of law has been violated as has happened in Uganda.

For example, when the Uganda police tried to prevent FDC officials from visiting a camp for displaced people at Kapkoros -- at the invitation of the displaced -- the FDC acted boldly and defied police arbitrary use of force by non-violent resistance in line with The Hague Process.

Put differently, FDC was reacting to a breakdown in democratic principles, rule of law and the right of Ugandans to campaign and vote freely as enshrined in the Uganda Constitution. In this case defiance is an attempt to restore the rule of law so that Uganda citizens can enjoy their full civil and political rights.

In this sense, defiance, not compliance, is therefore legitimate.

However, should security forces use excessive force, FDC has the right to defend itself.  To make a good case for self-defense, FDC and other opposition parties should provide visual information to the entire world through social media so that none will question FDC’s right to self-defense.


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