RULE OF LAW IN UGANDA

This post contains four reports.

1.   UGANDA’S POSITION in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index for 2020: Report just released

Factors assessed include Fundamental Rights, Constraints on Government Powers, Corruption and Rule of Law amongst others.

I hope Museveni doesn’t feel too satisfied that Uganda was not at the bottom of the list of 128 countries assessed in 2020 by the World Justice Project. Nor was it even one of the worst 10 countries. But it was only just out of the bottom ten, coming in at 11th position overall out of 128 countries – and it has dropped its position since the last report in 2015. (The worst ten are Nicaragua, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Cameroon, Egypt, DRC, Cambodia – with Venezuela as the worst.)

However, this is all based on information gathered before Uganda’s Presidential campaign period, the elections in January 2021 and the ongoing human rights abuses this year, when things have deteriorated seriously.

The President of the East Africa Law Society, Mr Bernard Oundo, said, “The data on the [East African] countries is mostly worrying and confirms what we have been observing in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – a persistent failure to effect real and meaningful changes to existing governance systems. The political will to uphold the rule of law remains unsatisfactory. What this means is that we have to intensify our efforts at advocacy for change as a regional bar association.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor commented: “The World Justice Report comes out at the time when the Uganda Law Society has also just released the first quarterly rule of law report, listing a litany of rule of law atrocities allegedly committed by the regime, especially during the just concluded elections. Criminalisation of the practice of journalism, serial killing of women and disappearance of citizens especially from the Opposition side, were some of the documented rule of law incidents by the Law Society.

 

2.   RULE OF LAW AND ORDER IS NOT THE ARMY’S MANDATE – Editorial in Uganda’s Daily Monitor
(I have only just seen this hard-hitting Editorial which appeared on 11th March 2021.)

Why does the army take over the police role of keeping law and order? Have the police failed and, therefore, called the army to fill the void?

The recent and current abductions or arrests of civilians and their detention in military or undesignated centres raise a query whether the army is not acting partisan.

The detainees, all or majority of whom, are supporters of the Opposition, had been reported “missing or disappeared” until last month when the President revealed that they were arrested and are in detention of security agencies – the army and the units subordinate thereto.

He ordered the security agencies to issue the list of the detainees, but it took weeks before the army released the names to police. It took another week or two for the Internal Affairs minister to table the list in Parliament last week.

The President has now disclosed that 51 more people are in detention by the presidential guard unit, Special Forces Command. Many of them are accused of planning chaos before and after the January General Election.

Arresting criminal suspects is normal, but when the procedure is arbitrary and the arrest is executed by a wrong agency, it suggests abuse of State authority.

The detained people are accused of participating in the November 18 and 19 protests, which were triggered by the arrest of the National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, [accused] of planning to cause post-election violence.

These alleged crimes are ordinarily a police matter. Why does the army take over the police role of keeping law and order? Have the police failed and, therefore, called the army to fill the void? Why are the suspects taken to military detention instead of police custody? The intervention of the army to arrest and detain people for political-related crimes, raises suspicion of a political crackdown.

The detainees were charged with possession of military stores/supplies. In one of the cases, 50 people are charged with possession of four rounds of ammunition (four bullets) yet they were arrested at different places and dates. How can 50 people co-possess four bullets as if they were found in one room?

Could the accusations of possession of military supplies have been used to justify the prosecution of political detainees in the army court, fearing that such charges would collapse in civil courts? Government cannot hide under the cover of the rule of subjudice to abuse the rule of law.

The army has not proved that it has recovered any gun from the detainees. So without a gun, how were they intending to use the bullets against government?

There is no reported incident where an army base or armoury has been attacked or broken into, so where did the detainees get all these military stores from? The army should be non-partisan.

 

3.   THERE HAVE BEEN NO ABDUCTIONS BY UGANDAN SECURITY – according to  Sam Kutesa (Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister) in his report to the UN
This article first appeared in Uganda’s Daily Monitor on April 14th, 2021.

Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa has told the United Nations Security Council that there have been no abductions and kidnappings by Ugandan security operatives amid public outcry over disappearances of especially opposition supporters during and after the 2021 general election.

“…anyone suspected of wrongdoing in Uganda will be arrested, investigated and subjected to due process of the law,” Mr Kutesa emphasized on Tuesday as he briefed the Heads of Missions of the Permanent members of the UN Security Council, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and the European Union Ambassador to Uganda, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign affairs.

During this meeting, Mr Kutesa shared a report with findings from investigations into the violent riots that took place in Kampala and other parts of the country.

Authorities said at least 54 people were killed in the November 2020 protest which erupted in Kampala and spread to other parts of the country following the arrest of then National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine in Luuka District. Minister Kutesa, however, said the deaths were “regrettable”.

Earlier in February, President Museveni said some of the people who were killed during the protests were terrorists who wanted to frustrate the electoral process.

“We brought a distinguished commando unit from Somalia which had also destroyed ADF. This commando group quickly defeated the terrorists who wanted to disturb elections. They killed some and arrested some of these terrorists,” President Museveni said in a televised address hours after he was announced winner of one of the most violent presidential elections Uganda has had.

Since late last year, hundreds of Ugandans have reportedly been abducted, tortured and detained incommunicado in ungazetted places. Some have appeared before the Court Martial on different charges. Others have been abandoned in swamps and forests in the middle of the night after several days of missing.

In March 2021, internal affairs Minister, Jeje Odongo tabled before the House a list of names of 177 missing Ugandans who he said are in detention following their arrest during and after the January polls. Some MPs questioned the authenticity of the list with others saying the names on it did not match what they had on their lists.

The same day, the National Unity Platform (NUP) released a list with 680 names that they said were of people who are either dead, missing, resurfaced through unclear circumstances or languishing in military custody.

NUP leaders said yesterday that at least 222 of their supporters have been released after spending more than four months in security detention.

They said they had documented up to about 158 names of supporters who have been dumped in different places while others have been granted bail by different courts.

 

4.   “INCREASING CIVIL LITIGATION AGAINST POLICE” (ChimpReport) 22nd April 2021

The Inspector General of the Police, Martin Ochola, spoke at a workshop organised “to appreciate the magnitude of the problem of the civil litigation of Police cases“. He said, “It might be for two reasons: Police is becoming more unprofessional and indisciplined and people are also becoming more aware of their rights for justice. The rate at which the Police is sued is alarming.”

If only something positive could come out of this!

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