In 1996, Dr Kawanga Semogerere of DP teamed up with Cecilia Ogwal of UPC to give Museveni a run for his money.
I was a high school student at the time, and an avid admirer of Ms Ogwal, not so much of Semogerere, because he played a significant role in legitimizing the fraud that the Museveni regime has become and the decline of DP. I was a regular at my HSC debating club during the 1994 Constituent Assembly debate that resulted in Uganda’s 1995 Constitution.
That Constitution lacked in many ways, but it was a document that designed a clear democratic path for Uganda. The 1995 Constitution also gave Ugandans hope through term and age limits, and a civil language that encouraged civil society organizations and opposition political parties to fetter.
These are critical platforms that mediate between citizens and the state. The Constitution also assured Ugandans that civic engagement was a right, and not criminal. The citizens could protect the state from intruders and pronounce themselves over Uganda’s territorial integrity using state machinery.
Left in its 1995 form, the Constitution could have delivered Ugandans to unimaginable triumph on several fronts, such as a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another. This feat is vital because there has never been such an experience in Uganda’s entire existence.
If the constitution was strong, we would not have this war this war-mongering mode at every election since 1996. In 1996 when Dr Semogerere picked Mrs. Ogwal as his running mate, Semo was demonized as Dr. Obote’s empathizer. Musevenists went to Luweero and displayed skulls by the roadside, attributing that to wars of Obote.
Spooky stories of ghosts of Obote and the northern hate-mongering filled the airwaves. The threat of going back to the bush was the highlight of that campaign.
Many Baganda shunned Semogerere and treated him as an Obote ally, a traitor, and anti-progress that the NRM had brought. You may understand why the north is cold about a Muganda Bobi Wine. In sum, it is a pity that the 1995 Constitution, even when fraudulently amended several times, did not remove Ugandans’ rights to unseat an incumbent as treasonable.
Some of the provisions within the 1995 Constitution, as amended dubiously, still recommend the preservation of human rights and rights to civil liberties, right to participation in civic discourses.
If contesting against the incumbent constitutes a threat to national security/war, or leads the state to kidnap, shoot at, detain without trial, torture, or murder citizens who are practicing their constitutional obligations, then what is the purpose of an election?
Vote only those committed environment protection
Ugandans should vote candidates who have plans of protecting the environment from destruction. Last year, the effects of climate change manifested themselves in the form of floods and the outbreak of locusts, among others.
These disasters have greatly affected the livelihoods of Ugandans. When we talk about conserving the environment, we are talking about taking care of our future because the environment provides essential needs for our present livelihoods and the future.
We often forget how much humanity depends on the environment. Despite all these benefits, many citizens (humanity)
have continually destroyed the environment, with the government and the line authorities looking on. In fact, some government officials have participated in environmental degradation.
Therefore, I call upon Ugandans to vote leaders whose manifesto is prioritizing environmental conservation in order to protect and safeguard the public from the future impacts of climate change.
Let’s vote peacefully
On January 14, 2021, Ugandans will vote different political office bearers. The voting will stretch up to February. A lot of resources have been committed; time, money, sleepless nights, etc.
Expectations are so high that to most of them, defeat is not in their minds. The moment you subject yourself to voting/electoral processes, like a soccer game, there are three likely consequences: a win, a loss or draw. However, most Ugandans don’t plan for envisage loss.
It’s either win or win. At this point, elections have lost meaning. Immediately after declaration of results, losers start pointing fingers in different directions, looking for scapegoats.
Whereas there could be cases of unfair losses, one thing that Ugandans ought to learn is that losing is part of the game. Whether we lose or win, life must go on. An election is just an event that comes and goes.
After January 14, our children and parents need us while our employers expect us to report to work soon after. Should your candidate win, celebrate in peace and should he/she fail, also mourn in peace. Engaging in violence won’t change the results. It instead impacts on the economy and affects our general well-being.
Support a free press
Democracy dies in darkness and the government of Uganda has all but put out the light on a free press. Beaten, pepper-sprayed, shot at, arbitrarily detained, and subjected to illegal searches and seizures, among other violations, the press in Uganda is under attack from the government and its security forces; but who will stop the bleeding?
Recently, journalists stormed out of a security press briefing in protest of the security forces’ brutality against their colleagues covering opposition presidential candidates’ campaigns, thus sending a strong message to the government that this state of affairs cannot continue.
Uganda’s laws are clear: every Ugandan has a right to practice their profession and this includes journalists (Article 40(2)).
Secondly, the protected and highly cherished right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 29(1a) of the Constitution expressly includes freedom of the press and other media.
Thirdly, Ugandan law places an absolute ban on all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment including physical assaults.
In order to rein in the security forces, more effort is required. The journalists cannot go at it alone. The question, therefore, is: what more needs to be done?
First, the owners and the top-level management of media houses must actively join the struggle against police brutality meted out on journalists by calling the government out on these violations. The welfare of their employees and the survival of their organisations depend on respect for freedom of the press.
They must stand with their staff and use their collective influence to demand for change. Secondly, lawsuits against both government and the specific errant security officers perpetrating violence against journalists must continue to be filed.
Section 10 of the Human Rights Enforcement Act, 2019 provides that liability for infringement of human rights abuses must be shared between the government and the errant individual in their personal capacity. With personal liability on the table, security officers ought to think twice before assaulting journalists.
Recently, Justice Musa Ssekaana applied this critical provision to order three police officers that had participated in the assault of NBS journalist, Twaha Mukiibi, to collectively pay Shs 20 million to him as compensation. Police and army officers must, therefore, be conscious that the law is capable of targeting them individually.
Additionally, the Uganda Law Society should support these varied lawsuits, whether by providing legal advice or joining in as amicus curiae to advise the courts on how best to resolve those actions.
Thirdly, it is imperative and high time that the director of Public Prosecutions commenced criminal prosecutions against the security officers that assault journalists in their line of duty. We must do all that we lawfully can to protect and ensure a free press. It is our strongest tool for entrenching democracy in Uganda.