Is independent Uganda a case of failed patriotism?

 

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By Rev Samson Maliisa

On October 9, 2016, as a nation we shall celebrate our 54th year of independence. In his speech on Independence Day in 1962, the then first Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr Milton Obote, echoed the hopes and aspirations of Ugandans, proclaiming an era of peace, prosperity and ever-growing national strength.

The events that unfolded soon after and years later, however, make one wonder whether the Prime Minister’s speech was not simply an empty great speech by a great orator. Soon the new nation spiralled into chaos, crises and a horrific reign of terror under Idi Amin. These problems, in my opinion, were rooted in the absence of the spirit of patriotism in post-independent Uganda.

Perhaps the first indicator of the absence of patriotism was the formation of the Kabaka Yekka party. This political outfit was formed with the sole purpose of fronting the interests of Buganda Kingdom, the most powerful part of Uganda then.

They formed an alliance with Milton Obote’s UPC on the condition that the interests of Buganda would be preserved.

However, this was at the expense of the new Uganda. For this unholy, unpatriotic alliance eventually gave Obote a comfortable lead against the Democratic Party, which had enjoyed majority representation in the pre-independence parliament, making Obote the

first Prime Minister of Uganda.

While Buganda Kingdom would do anything to protect its interests against the rest of the country, later events proved that the Obote administration would soon grow wary of Buganda’s demands. It was the failure to heed Buganda’s demands that orchestrated events which led to the Mengo Crisis in 1966.

What followed was the Pigeon Hole Constitution, outlawing the special status of Buganda and abolishing kingdoms. This made Obote President with full executive powers, and led to Kabaka Muteesa II fleeing to exile on 24 May 1966.

The flip side of the Mengo Crisis is that it was a result of Obote’s resolve to stay in power. This was after a vote of no confidence in him while he was in northern Uganda because of his involvement in a gold corruption scandal in the Congo together with his army protégé Idi Amin Dada.

By this time, Obote had become the darling of Uganda’s military forces. After an attempted coup in 1965, when the military demanded swifter promotions and higher pay, Obote elected to shift his commitment from Buganda Kingdom to the self-centred army.

This self-preservation, with little regard for the citizenry as expressed in the 1962 Constitution, caused the ease with which Obote overthrew the 1962 Constitution, proclaiming himself President.

Suffice to say that with the support of the army, Obote’s confidence was strengthened, unveiling a new kind of leader, characterised by tribalism, an unforgiving spirit, corruption, and insensitivity. This ushered in a dictatorial regime, characterised by repression. All other political parties were banned, leaving only UPC.

 

On January 25, 1971, while Obote was out of the country in a Commonwealth Summit in Singapore, Uganda’s army under Amin ousted him from the presidency.

Obote fled to Tanzania, and Amin, for eight years, instituted a bloody regime of terror and repression which resounded throughout the world, leaving immense negative consequences with which Uganda is still grappling to undo to this day, 37 years later.

Although it is not possible to assess each and every event that unfolded after Uganda became independent, we can conclude that the newly born Uganda was handed over to men without patriotic dedication.

Therefore, recalling our history which has been characterised by political and constitutional instability, I appeal to fellow Ugandans and friends of Uganda, to re-ignite the long-suppressed patriotic spirit and love for our nation. Let us all do the best in our power to build a great future for this nation, the Pearl of Africa, as we celebrate our 54th independence anniversary.

The writer is an Assistant Chaplain UgandaChristianUniversity, Mukono.

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Are Ugandan courts impartial?

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BY REV SAMSON MALIISA

On March 31, 2016 all the nine Judges of Uganda’s Supreme Court confirmed President Yoweri Museveni as the duly elected President of the Republic of Uganda for the term 2016-2021. The decision did not surprise the majority of Ugandans, including those who doubted the credibility of the 2016 presidential elections.

Mr Amama Mbabazi, also former prime minister, petitioned the Supreme Court contesting the February 18 presidential election result in which he came third with a score of 1.5 percent of the cast votes.

He sought a declaration that President Museveni was not validly elected and so the elections should be cancelled.

The court’s ruling was mostly hinged on the nature of evidence as presented by Mbabazi’s lawyers.

Whereas to an ordinary Ugandan it seemed obvious that the elections were neither free nor fair and ultimately rigged, courts hold the question of evidence to be of paramount importance and can only deliver a judgement based on the strength of evidence presented before it and not in the media, or by persons opting not to appear before it.

Thus for justice’s sake, court must lend a deaf ear to all claims made outside of court even if such claims were true. What presiding judges know outside court does not count.

The onus therefore is on lawyers appearing before any court to not only state their facts and claims but also gather, organize and verify all possible evidence as relates to their claims and inevitably make a strong case before court.

The lawyer(s) must skilfully and wisely present their facts and claims based on such evidence to satisfy and convince the judge(s), with courage moderated with utmost civility and respect first to the judge(s) and secondly to the opposing lawyers. 

For Mbabazi’s lawyers, it can be said that in some instances, the evidence was scanty, insufficient, unverified, disorganized or poorly presented not forgetting instances where there was no evidence at all.

Accordingly, the evidence question was crucial in fashioning the court’s decision and this should not surprise Ugandans. Whereas public opinion and claims may seem obvious, nothing is obvious in law unless proven to the court’s satisfaction.

Of course one cannot disregard the other factors and circumstances surrounding the petition that in themselves may have dictated the outcome but on the whole the justices of the Supreme Court, owing to the evidence presented, can be said to have delivered a fair ruling.

However, the ruling cannot be taken as a truth declaration accounting for exactly what transpired in the electoral process. We may never know for sure what transpired in the just concluded elections and not even the Supreme Court can provide that certainty of truth. Nevertheless a just judgement was delivered, going by the strength of evidence presented by the petitioners.

In short, courts even the most apolitical, democratic and impartial, can only make the claim of being courts of justice but it is impossible for them to constitute themselves into courts of truth. And we cannot define our Ugandan courts as apolitical, democratic and impartial or can we?

The FDC party is currently on a truth-finding mission and thus they are clamouring for an international audit into the elections, an indication that they have probably conceived the reality of court’s inability to find and expose truth, but as to whether they will live to see their wish come to pass, your guess is as good as mine.

The writer is the Assistant Chaplain at Uganda Christian University