Last Tuesday something queer played out in the legal corridors.
A retired supreme court justice was painfully wheeled to the court of appeal to file a petition intending to stop President Yoweri Museveni from using the national assembly to scrap the constitutionally and universally respected right to bail.
Watching Prof George Kanyeihamba, a clearly frail and fatigued former attorney general, globally acclaimed law expert and teacher of many respectable lawyers being wheeled into court to fight for preservation of the little of what remains of the sanctity of the supreme law in the land, was both humbling and disquieting.
The man got to the extent of weeping before the cameras, in mourning the extent to which the government has gone to erode safeguards for human rights.
Though fragile, the senior citizen left the comfort of a well earned retirement eager to perform the overriding obligation of defending the Constitution faced by an assault masterminded by a government that not only arrived on the ticket of fighting for constitutionalism, human rights and rule of law, but also spent quite a fortune and loads of precious time to knit the document together.
Kanyeihamba was in company of a handful of boys still at law school who have proved tenacious amidst a sea of lawyers, legal activists and the sleepy Uganda Law Society (ULS) by joining him to safeguard the little that remains of the purity of the cardinal law in the land.
Kanyeihamba sought a court order stopping the Attorney General, President Museveni & any other person or group of persons from any such actions that threaten the right to bail & release on police bond.
The Constitutional law expert, whose expertise the masterminds of the bail ban have roundly rejected, went alone to file the petition merely because the lawyers he had hired to help him do it had chosen political expediency as opposed to professionalism and service to their calling and mother land.
“The lawyers told me this matter is political and then switched off their phones”, the clearly dejected wheel-bound senior citizen revealed.
He was at that time addressing bemused and equally curious journalists shortly after making the journey to the court of appeal registry which also serves as the constitutional court.
By referring to a matter which is clearly constitutional as political, if it is really true, Kanyeihamba’s lawyers seemed to suggest since it is the Head of State who is personally leading the campaign to scrap bail, they withdrew since they feared being marked out by the State for political retribution.
To put it differently, what these lawyers seem to infer is that some powerful people interested in banning the right to bail or their sidekicks, coerced them into abandoning a client to his devices.
That a frail old man left possibly with just a few years to live, moreover, out of tens of millions of Ugandans is the one who has stood up to be counted in the war of defending cardinal rights under the Constitution, speaks quite a lot about the crying apathy and despondency tormenting the banana republic known as Uganda.
But in hindsight, one can forgive the carefree Ugandans. They have witnessed over time politicians using their representatives in the national assembly to defile the Constitution for personal gain.
The people no longer accordingly have faith in politicians to defend the same Constitution which they have been raping at a whim much as both the politicians using the MPs to rape the Constitution for their personal benefit and the rubber stamp MPs swear to defend the Constitution only to keep raping it thereafter!
The fact that the current leaders went to the bush to restore the Constitutional order and led to the death of hundreds of Ugandans in the process but are now busy tinkering with the very Constitution which they helped to write, cannot be wholly discounted as one big factor which has led Ugandans to merely look on as the politicians go about the business of desecrating the Constitution.
Ugandans have been beaten and have also witnessed colleagues being shot dead for merely stepping out to defend the Constitution from being violated.
Accordingly, majority of Ugandans are no longer ready and willing to be flogged and shot dead in the name of defending the Constitution which even when they have stepped out and risked their lives and even got killed to safeguard it, has always ended up being defiled by powerful politicians in concert with the gullible MPs anyway.
If MPs who are supposed to know better and so lead by example knowing that they too can easily find themselves in jail after being accused of heinous charges or framed up long after they scrapped bail are so gullible as to accept to be used to remove bail, it would be honestly asking too much from our people majority of whom are not as sophisticated as the MPs to leave whatever they are doing and defend the Constitution from attack.
We have all heard and witnessed none other than judges giving a greenlight to politicians to defile the Constitution or letting them free after violating the supreme law.
Now, if the judges are comfortable with the desecration of the Constitution fully aware from their training and practice that desecration of past Constitutions led to bloodletting, it would be quite a tall order to convince many Ugandans that Constitutions mean anything.
Lest I am misunderstood, let me before going on put the record straight. I don’t intend to mean that all is lost. I have been simply helping to highlight the magnitude of the problem the country is faced with and possibly mobilize enough support for the huge task at hand.
Moving on, the fact that the Uganda Law society(ULS) is sitting on it’s laurels at this august hour of our history and yet it is mandated to fight for the rule of law and human rights as well as the Constitution, casts it’s relevancy in much doubt.
The inaction on part of the current crop of ULS leaders and their members qualify the notion, either positively or negatively, it is a group of naive and bullied lawyers completely unable to call to order powerful people violating the Constitution, rule of law and human rights, and in this case, the State.
Well, a month back or so, the leaders of ULS led by their president Pheona Gladys Wall Nabasa met the president. They made the pilgrimage to ask for alms, oh yes!
They went begging for alms because, they informed their host, they were finding it extremely hard to get by as a result of the frozen legal practice brought about by Covid-19.
In response, the president rebukingly and cunningly advised his guests to stop engaging in legal activism, which is by the way one of the cardinal duties of ULS worthy of the name , and take to farming in order to make ends meet.
This posture, as if the Nabasas can’t manage to carry out the two functions of legal activism and farming simultaneously!
Anyway, the host as is always the norm, advised the bazzukulu to form a group SACCO to which he pledged handsome sums of cash if the so-called learned bazzukulu listened to his counsel by swapping legal activism for farming.
The deliciously-brown-faced Nabasa and her awe-stricken group didn’t disappoint jjajja. They glowingly complimented the old man for his grandfatherly advice and promised to do as counseled.
We don’t know if the president has since tossed some alms to Nabasa, but we can’t also completely rule it out remembering that jjajjas are naturally generous and the fact that our own jjajja has credibly proved to be a generous old man over years.
What we know and by saying so we don’t intend to imply Nabasa and her people have since the grand alms-seeking trip sold out to jjajja’s charm, Pheona Wall and her group have since that trip been conspicuously silent particularly in regard to this august war jjajja is personally commanding against the Uganda Constitution.
Whether the Nabasas are silent because jjajja advised them to drop activism for farming or because they are now fully farmers to mind activism, or because the charming jjajja conditioned his alms on the Nabasas dropping activism first, we shall leave that one to everyone’s guess.
What is undisputable, though, is the fact that all forms of activism particularly those ones jjajja deems treasonous, are as gravely criminal just like treason itself is!
Indeed jjajja has by now rendered absolutely idle quite a number of activists( civil society organisations) of whatever form and creed for speaking the terrible lingua of human rights and democracy among such evil things and which lingua ULS is , by obligation, supposed to speak– at least– by accident of being legal activists.
Away from from that and needless to state, many NGOs mandated to amplify the human rights and constitutional rule campaign, are currently coiling tails around their legs!
While many of the legal activists and the like are mute about the move by government to scrap the right to bail, among such prevailing abuses, they are on the other hand continuingly camouflaging as human rights crusaders and lining their pockets with handsome dollars from abroad under the cover of fighting human rights abuses and such stuff which functions they aren’t performing in actual sense!
Carrying on, years gone by, religious leaders proved a lot more instrumental when it came to speaking up and loudly ,for that matter, against acts of misrule and all forms of human rights abuses.
I am highlighting the religious leaders I am highlighting not for fun reading but to challenge their counterparts living today to wake up and emulate them as far as this matters are concerned.
rom the past, we profoundly recall gallant religious leaders such as Bishop Janan Luwum. Janan stood up against dictator Idi Amin Dada to the point of losing his life. He completely rejected to surrender to Amin’s misrule.
When the push had come to the shove, Bishop Luwum chose to give up his life as an ultimate price for his fellow countrymen and women to enjoy freedom and peace later.
No wonder, the world up to this day continues to celebrate Janan as a super hero and as a saint whilst roundly dismissing Amin and his henchmen as terrible human butchers!
During Milton Obote’s second rule and at the time the incumbent president was fighting in Luweero, Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga did a tremendous job of defending human rights and fighting all forms of misrule.
In spite of the fact majority of Ugandans had completely given up on hope and turned apathetic and despondent on account of terrible misrule and bloodlet, feeling that Obote was a demigod who no mortal could call to order or stand up to, Cardinal Nsubuga ,on the other hand, remained the illuminating light of hope amidst a sea of despair.
In fact, President Museveni has since duly acknowledged the priceless moral, material and financial support the departed charismatic top cleric rendered him during his five year bush without which he would have possibly taken longer or forever to dislodge Obote and his henchmen.
Bishop Misaeri Kawuma did a fairly good human rights crusade job too during the dark days of the Obote II government.
Misaeri will be forever saluted for gallantly choosing a humbling sermon while he led the last prayers for former Milton Obote’s military guru, Maj. Gen David Oyite Ojok which sent shivers down the spine of the larger-than-life deputy vice president, Paulo Muwanga.
Reading from a powerful Bible verse, Misaeri stated how the world of the dead now that dad Oyite Ojok was dead and about to join the dead, was terribly shaking and the dead greatly terrified to understand the greatly feared Oyite Ojok was now dead and about to join them the less mortal. The dead were at the same time in a state of disbelief, wondering if death could really overpower a great man as Oyite Ojok!
The dead upon Ojok being lowered into the grave then exclaimed while wondering how a powerful Ojok could join the dead.
Uganda has lately also been blessed with gallant religious leaders much as majority of them have been passing on in quick and alarming succession, regrettably leaving in their trail apathetic and pathetic successors.
I will point out just two in interest of time and space. The first one is Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. The other one is his namesake Metropolitan Yona Lwanga Basajjakitalo. Both men of God have since returned to their Creator.
The former Catholic Archbishop Lwanga, prior to returning to his heavenly Father, had been an indisputably human rights fighter, a developmental icon and an outstanding crusader of good governance and rule of law.
The departed Archbishop was a dogmatic believer and ardent practitioner of the holistic evangelism of the gospel, human development, human rights and enlightenment.
You will bear me witness, Yona didn’t for once waste time upon smelling or detecting any form of misrule and human rights abuse, question and condemn loudly what was afoot.
Yona had proved such an irritating thorn in the shoe of the establishment that it necessitated the regime to plant moles on the Archbishop from among his subordinates to spy on what he was up to!
In case of Yona’s namesake, Metropolitan Lwanga spoke against misrule and the regime’s excesses so plainly, using sarcastic and acidic words and in an exceedingly carefree style that many feared for his life, feeling his crusade bordered on recklessness!
The bearded Basajjakitalo (men are great) raised eyebrows when he pronounced possibly in a fit of despair and anger how it is going take the collapse of the current NRM regime for things to return to normalcy and even went on to dare the journalists present to go ahead and publicize his prophecy!
Lwanga was so averse to hypocrisy that he flatly rejected a big car the president had donated him. He said he couldn’t drive such a powerful car when Ugandans are poor.
By and large, so long as the conditions I have highlighted continue to exist, other factors remaining constant, it will take people of Kanyeihamba’s daredevil courage, patriotism, stature, sophistication and possibly burning anger to mind about defending the Constitution, rule of law, good governance and what have you.