On any day, I would choose civil obedience. This is the reason I have abided to many otherwise illogical rules and regulations right from school, to the ways we are governed in the name of peace with the powers that be, and harmony with my fellow ruled.
It is for the above reason, in the face of possible chaos after the 2021 elections, that I refused to listen to the Besigye call for civil disobedience and chose Robert Kyagulanyi’s path of “we will not do it their way but the civil way.”
Since then, a number of events have evolved one after another - from abductions to the illegal arrest of members of parliament (Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana) first without trial and later rearrested after being granted bail before being remanded for almost a year without trial before a judge. But even their electorates chose civil obedience and belief in the rule of law.
They still hope one day, rule of law will prevail. But it seems we are too far from the rule of law. During the fifth annual memorial ceremony of the first Ugandan chief justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, the fountain of honour, in broad daylight, assured the judicial fraternity that the state will not implement some orders of courts, explaining that, “Sometimes decisions and orders of the courts are not implemented because they do not rhyme with the interests of both the population and our political interest.”
I got excited that the president was looking out for me the “Muntu wa wansi” when I heard “population” though still held aback by “political interests.”
Not before long, the now newly ordained full general tweets, informing Kenyans while reaffirming to Ugandans what his father had just said: ”Haha I love my Kenyan relatives. Constitution? Rule of law? You must be joking! For us there is only Revolution and you will soon learn about it!”
Two important takeways from the tweet: “no rule of law” and “revolution.” I quickly looked out for the definition of revolution and, according to Britannica encyclopedia, “revolution, in social and political science, is a major, sudden, and hence typically violent alteration in government and in related associations and structure.”
With the above definition, I could not but marvel at what followed. The tweeting general was spot on as barely hours later he was elevated to the highest rank in the army and the Shujaa commander elevated to the second highest and new commander of the land forces. (Does this qualify to be a major alteration as indicated in the definition of revolution?) Now I will leave matters of the generals to the generals.
But before I do that, I will share my vague knowledge of the law that prohibits a serving officer from engaging in partisan politics, at least if rule of law is to be respected (Constitution and UPDF Act).
Now what next for Uganda in the face of a reality where the rule of law and constitution is considered a joke by high-profile public officials? Should we dig deep in the lean coffers of the nation to pay judicial officers, police officers, members of parliament, et cetera when their output in terms of Constitution and Judicial orders will be subjective to the choice of the state to implement them or not?!
Are we being called on as Ugandans by the president and reechoed by the general to abandon the rule of law and choose “the rule of the jungle”, survival for the fittest” and thus chaos? Is it deliberate to create an environment where a revolution from father to son will be inevitable? Or is it patronage that the ruled remain slaves of laws like the Public Management Order Act and the new Computer Misuse Act while the rulers disrespect them?
I call upon the great minds in the land to interrogate the above possible scenarios or rule them out. Otherwise, as a lay Ugandan, I think we should experiment as a country where we don’t respect no law or constitution from both the ruled and the rulers and maybe after experiencing the chaos first-hand, we shall agree as a whole that every society deserves respect for the rule of law and constitutionalism.
The author is a political commentator.