A somber mood engulfed the female wing of Luzira Prison as inmates on death row wept while begging for mercy and asking Government to give them a second chance to life.
The request was made in a song presented to the EU head of delegation Atilio Pacifici and other heads of missions accredited to Uganda who were on a fact finding mission ahead of the commemoration of the 15thWorld Day against Death Penalty.
With tears flowing down their faces, they admitted to have committed crimes but they have realized their mistakes and apologize to the public, they have reformed and promise to live a responsive life if given a second chance to live, the inmates sung.
"It's true we have accepted we made a mistake, we seek for your forgiveness in repentance. Death penalty should be abolished, we won't do it again, we are broken please don't kill us we are so sorry, the inmates cried as they begged for mercy.
"We apologize to our country; we apologize to fellow Uganda citizens. We apologize to the people we offended. We are remorseful because our acts for that reason reformed, the inmates sung as they asked for forgiveness.
“The European Union strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and works towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, if necessary by lobbying for the immediate establishment of a moratorium which paves the way for its abolition,” Pacifici informed inmates.
For the last 12 years, on October 10 of every year, nations have commemorated World Day against the Death Penalty. But Uganda still retains the death penalty although no execution has been carried out since 1999, when Haji Mustapha Sebirumbi was sent to the gallows.
Currently, 155 out of 195 independent states have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 105 states have fully abolished the death penalty including 19 from Africa, 6 have abolished for ordinary crimes, 48 states have abolished in practice while 36 are executing.
Although Uganda last carried out executions in 1999, courts still sentence people to suffer death. Uganda's Prisons currently accommodate 198 death row inmates of these, 11 are female while 187 are male. For an execution to be carried out, the President has to sign a warrant first.
Annet Nakafeero, a former death row prisoner in an interview with the New Vision says she collapsed the moment court pronounced that she was sentenced to suffer death.
An inmate plays a guitar to entertain guests during the solidarity visit by EU Ambassadors and FHRI to Luzira.
"I fainted and collapsed in the dock but gained cautiousness while in the condemn section of Luzira Women's prison. Being a single parent, I kept thinking of what would befall my children in case I died in prison," Nakafeero narrates.
Although her penalty was reduced, she did not regain freedom since High Court sentenced her to 45 years after mitigation hearing. She said she was surprised when the High Court gave her a long sentence despite her pleadings and appeals by her children and prison authorities.
Nakafeero said she had an abusive marriage which resulted into the murder of her husband.
"It is true I committed a crime but I apologized and given a chance, I am a reformed person and ready to go back to my community and sensitize people against wrong doing. I have learnt a lot and I feel changed," narrated Nakafeero.
Despite the High Court ruling, Nakafeero is still waiting for her final verdict after thirteen years.
Jamilah Zubedah, the youngest death row inmate who was imprisoned at the age of 14 for murdering a man she claimed to have abducted her and forced her into marriage with his five wives says she did not intend to kill him.
"I was abducted and forced into marriage, while in abduction, I decided to mix sleeping tablets into the man's food so that I could take advantage of his sleep to escape, unfortunately his children ate the food and died," Zubedah confessed.
"I apologize for that I did and pray that Government gives me a second chance because I was young but now I have grown up and I have learnt how to resolve problems," Zubedah cried as she begged for mercy.
Foundation for Human Right’s Initiative and other partners who were in the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty carried out various activities including a solidarity visit to death row inmates at the Women’s prison and the condemn section of Luzira.
Other Diplomats present included; Stephanie Rivoal the French Ambassador, Hugo Verbist the Belgian Ambassador, Henk Jan Bakker Netherlands Ambassador, Domenico Fornara the Italian Ambassador, Finbar Obrien Irish Ambassador, Petra Kochendoerfer Charge d’Affaires- German Embassy and Mogens Pedersen the Danish Ambassador
Published by The Newvision
By ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI
KAMPALA- The European Union Head of Delegation to Uganda, Mr Attilio Pacifici has urged Uganda to abolish the death penalty because it is “the global trend.”
“It’s not a strong correlation between the poverty and capital punishment, there’s such a strong link; people living in poverty are at a greater risk of suffering the death sentence because they have no access to credible defence,” Mr Pacifici said.
He was speaking at the International Day Against the Death Penalty at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Nsambya, Kampala, on Wednesday.
The 15th anniversary was attended by death row survivors, human rights defenders, officials from the Uganda Prison Services, the French Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Stephanie Rivoal, politicians, among others.
The envoy said the death penalty is an inhuman and degrading form of punishment that does not deter crime.
He hailed the Prison Services for allowing his delegation to conduct a survey at Luzira Prisons last week where they discovered that most of inmates on death row are poor and could not afford justice. “Not every country allows foreigners into their prisons,” he said.
He stressed the importance of giving people a second chance.
EU Ambassadors and FHRI staff during a solidarity visit to Luzira Upper Prison 5th October 2017
He decried several flaws in the criminal justice system.
“Judges are human beings, like police officers, they make mistakes. Good legal aid is not available to the vast majority of defendants,” he said. “They [suspects] cannot afford it, some case files go missing; miscarriage of justice is inevitable in every justice system and is irreversible. How then can someone in an error-prone and imperfect system pass an irreversible sentence?”
He cited the cases of Mr Edmary Mpagi and Mr Patrick Zzizinga, who were sentenced to death for murders they never committed.
Mr Mpagi and his cousin, Mr Fred Masembe (who died in prison) were sentenced to death in 1982 for murdering George William Wandyaka, their neighbour in Masaka District.
However, Mr Wandyaka was found alive even after Mr Mpagi’s release after 18 years on death row. Mr Zzizinga on his part, was convicted and sentenced to death for “killing” his wife with whom they still live.
Even after the famous Suzan Kigula, in which the Supreme Court annulled the mandatory death sentence, and ordered a review of all cases for resentencing, many death row inmates still suffer inordinate delays in the appellate process, because they cannot afford timely justice or their files went missing.
“The death penalty is not prevention, not reparation, it’s just revenge,” Ms Rivoal, the French ambassador said, adding that abolition is a sign of respect for human life. “It’s a moral choice. A political choice and here in Uganda, it’s your choice.”
Currently, Uganda has 160 death row inmates, six women. Uganda has 28 offenses that attract the death—the highest number in East Africa—however, with exemptions to juveniles, pregnant women and the mentally ill.
The last executions happened in 1999 and 2005 for the civilian and military systems, respectively.
Public support for the death penalty in Uganda has tremendously reduced, with 64 per cent reportedly backing abolition.
The ambassador said, the EU (which funded the Kigula petition) has no intention to interfere with Uganda’s courts, but it will support strengthen the judiciary and entire justice system.
He thus urged government to: pass the Law Revision Law (Revision Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2015 to give effect to the Supreme Court ruling in Kigula and limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes as defined by international standards; require that all competent authorities consider the economic status of the defendants in deciding whether to impose or uphold a death sentence; ensure full respect for the right to a fair trial and the right to effective counsel and work to reduce poverty and inequality in the country.
Story Published by the Daily Monitor
Stéphanie RIVOAL, Ambassador of France for the EU October 10th 2017
Dear Atillio Pacifici, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation, Dear Livingstone Sewanyana, Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Dear Honourable, Dear Human Rights Activists,
Ladies and Gentlemen
15 years. Yes, today marks the 15th World Day against Death Penalty. 15 years of active work of awareness. 15 years of worldwide advocacy. 15 years of improvements, celebrations, supports, campaigns, prison visits…
And, yet, 15 years later, in the 21st century, the World Day against the Death Penalty still exists because the Death Penalty still exists too.
So, what is one more speech is going to achieve exactly?
Maybe nothing. But I hope not. Because I Stéphanie Rivoal, as a human being, as an Ambassador, as a member of my European Union Family, will never stop making speeches until that crual and inhuman punishment stops once and for all.
The purpose of speeches is to share a message through a voice. Today, it is not only one voice but many voices coming from the maximum security prison of Luzira, from the songs of women and men on the death row, many voices of the condemned of Uganda that are resonating on this day.
Their songs spoke of redemption, of forgiveness, of second chances.
So, I, as a fellow human being to the condemned, to the inmates, shall talk today about redemption, about forgiveness, about second chance. I shall talk on their behalf about life.
I have to tell you that I did not always think this way. Indeed, when I was a teenager, I was in favor of the death penalty, I thought it was necessary for the worst crimes, like rape and murder of children.
Now I changed my mind. Why? You might think. Because I reflected on it, I witnessed the life in prison during my visits in France and Uganda. I met the people on the death row or on life imprisonment. I met murderers, thieves, drug traffickers. And I did not see monsters. I saw People. I saw human beings.
Now, I believe in redemption and forgiveness. And I feel so much better about myself. Now, I know that Death Penalty is not the answer.
A French politician called Jean Jaurès, a Christian, said in the 19th Century: «Death penalty is contrary to the highest aims, the most noble dreams that humanity had over the last 2 000 years. It is contrary to both with the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of Revolution”.
And indeed, the holly books, the best-selling books in the world, are true testimony to that spirit.
The Bible, on numerous occasions, showed that God had mercy.
For instance, David said to God: “I am in a deep distress. Let us fall into the hand of Lord, for his mercy is great, but do not let me fall into human hands”. He was guilty of adultery and murder, God did not make him pay for his crimes with his life. (Samuel 24-14)
Ugandans are religious people, be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish. God showed his love by not condemning us. So why should we, humans, we, sinners, condemn other fellow humans? Why not forgive and offer help, instead of condemning?
Men are sinners, they kill one another but society, government shall rise above the condition of a fallible man and find in itself the superior strength to forgive and to redeem.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher also from the 18th century, said about government and the use of force: “In any case, frequent punishments are a sign of weakness or slackness in the government. There is no man so bad that he cannot be made good for something. No man should be put to death, even as an example, if he can be left to live without danger to society.”
To govern in a peaceful and democratic country such as Uganda, there is no need to use excessive force, there is no need to condemn criminals to death.
There is a need for justice, there is a need for redemption.
Today, I dare say that Death penalty is institutionalized murder. Not only death penalty is institutionalized murder but waiting on death row has been recognized as torture, it is an inhuman, and degrading treatment. It is also an ineffective punishment.
In truth, does the death penalty prevent crime?
It may sound like common sense but all statistics said the capital punishment does not prevent suicide bombers. It does not even prevent crime as people simply think that they will never get caught. They all think they committed the perfect crime.
When the debate started in France in 1981, the Minister of Justice, Robert Badinter said: “History has shown there is a type of crime that never shied away from the threat of death: it is the political crime.”. Death penalty means nothing to those who are ready to die.
What about crime of passion? Is someone going to reflect on the fear of death before he or she commits a crime? What about a woman killing her husband who is repeatedly beating her until she fears for her life? For her, the choice is simple: it is death or death.
Does death penalty allow victims to get reparation?
To every crime, there shall be a price. But the death of the criminal will never bring back the loved ones, it does not lower the pain by one iota.
The death of the criminal is not giving anything back but it is taking something away. It forbids any possible redemption, any possible regret, and the soothing feeling of forgiveness.
What jail time without the death penalty can do is to provide a time and space to reflect on one’s crime, to find in oneself love instead of hate, to reach redemption. Who are we to say that one does not get a second chance?
The death penalty is not justice, the death penalty is not prevention, the death penalty is not reparation. It is only revenge.
Finally, what about the killing of an innocent?
In the USA, since the 70’s, 4% of the people condemned to death were innocent. All criminal justice systems are vulnerable to discrimination and error. Hundreds have been put to death only to be recognized as innocent victims afterwards. Some of them were killed because they were not educated enough to understand the procedure, or because there were too poor to get legal assistance. The slightest chance of killing an innocent is in itself reason enough to abolish the death penalty.
The abolition of the death penalty is a choice of society, a choice based on the respect for life and human dignity. It is a moral choice, it is a political choice. Here in Uganda, it is YOUR choice.
On Twitter, some Ugandans said: “we still need it”. Or “we have more urgent matters to deal with.”
To them, I would like to say:
“You do not need it. Law and order can be obtained without killing fellow Ugandans, your brothers, your sisters. If one day you find yourself on the death row for a crime you did or did not commit, you will know that I am right.”
To the other, I would like to say:
“If matters of social progress had only been dealt with after economic or political issues, after dealing with corruption or growth for example, women like myself would still not have the right to drive, still not have the right to work, still not have the right to vote. I, as a woman, personally thank the courageous politicians who pushed through social progress despite the burden of their political agenda.”
So no, Uganda does not need it and yes, now is the time to abolish it.
I would like to thank the organizers, Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives, Livingstone, Lucy, for orchestrating and hosting this important event today. The Embassy of France is happy to have contributed to its special day.
I salute the moratorium de facto of where no execution has been carried out since 2009. But this is not enough.
Together with my colleagues from the European Union, we shall be by the side of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, by the side of the Prison services, who support it, by the side of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, to relentlessly demand that the Amendment Bill to mitigate penalties in criminal matters and change death penalty to life sentence pass in parliament immediately.
But we want more. Your fight is for the abolition of the Death Penalty in Uganda and we shall support you until it is obtained.
Because, once again, abolishing the death penalty is affirming respect for human life and dignity.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” said the great Nelson Mandela. It is a blessing that he was never condemned to death, although it was close back in 1964 when he was jailed for life, because otherwise, you would have to agree with me that History would have taken a very different turn.
So, yes, it may seem like it but the abolition of the death penalty in Uganda is not impossible and we shall fight with you until it is done.
Thank you for your attention
In 2003, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) established the World Day Against Death Penalty. Partners around the World unite on October 10th to promote awareness of the movement against the death penalty. Since the 1980s, there has been a global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, a trend that continues to this day. According to Amnesty International, 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes in 1977. Forty years later, two-thirds of all countries (141) are now abolitionist in law or in practice.
However, an ongoing feature on the application of the death penalty is that it is inextricably linked to poverty. Social and economic inequalities affect access to justice for those who are sentenced to death for several reasons: defendants may lack resources (social and economic, but also political power) to defend themselves and will in some cases be discriminated against because of their social status
The main objective of the 2017 World Day is to raise public awareness of the reasons people living in poverty are at greater risk of the death penalty, and to thereby build support for abolition.
In support of the World day’s theme, FHRI analyzed affidavits from the landmark case Attorney General v. Susan Kigula and 417 Others and established socioeconomic profiles of those living on death row at the time the Supreme Court decided the case. These facts and figures are supported by interviews with men and women who continue to live in the condemned section today. The outcomes confirm findings from other parts of the world that indeed the poor are more susceptible to suffer the death sentence. The findings of the survey are detailed hereunder.
EU Heads of Mission with FHRI staff at Luzira Upper Prison following a solidarity visit to Death Row Inmates, 5th October 2017
FHRI strongly believes that the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and a degrading form of punishment as well as a violation of the right to life. It is against this premise that FHRI has, since 1993, led the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in Uganda. FHRI has done a lot of work towards the advancement of this cause including; producing feature articles, regular talk shows and press interviews, training workshops, meetings and seminars, and submission of memoranda to the Constitutional Review Commission that led to wide discussions about the issue. In 2000 FHRI held a meeting with other NGOs and government officials to discuss and exchange views on the death penalty in Uganda, including alternatives to the sentence. FHRI also produced a series of posters entitled “Stop Executions Now” in 1999 and a reprint in 2002, advocating for the abolition of the death penalty in Uganda. The campaign received a major setback in 1999, when on 29 April 1999, 28 prisoners at Luzira Prisoners were hanged after a defunct moratorium on all executions in Uganda since 1996. However, this only prompted FHRI to step up the campaign for the abolition of capital punishment in Uganda. Thus, in 2005, FHRI submitted a memorandum to the Constitutional Review Commission, where, amongst other issues, the constitutionality of abolishing the death penalty was discussed. Several issues were raised, which outlined why FHRI does not believe in capital punishment. Sadly, the constitutional amendment process saw the retention of the death penalty. In 2003, FHRI then filed a petition on behalf of 17 soldiers of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) who had been sentenced to death by the Unit Disciplinary Committee without any option for appeal. The petition was heard but consequently dismissed.
As a climax in 2003, FHRI filed a petition on behalf of all prisoners on death row challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty through a prominent legal team from Katende, Sempebwa & Co. Advocates, which had great impact on the advocacy about the death penalty in Uganda. FHRI led the formation of the Civil Society Coalition against the death penalty in Uganda (CADP) and further extended the death penalty campaign to East Africa leading to the formation of the East African Coalition against the death penalty currently chaired by FHRI. FHRI is also a member of the World Coalition against the death penalty and works closely with other partners and organisations advocating for and supporting abolition.
UGANDA: Authorities attempt to silence human rights organisations ahead of constitutional amendment
Paris-Geneva-Kampala, September 25, 2017 - As Parliament of Uganda discusses the constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), FHRI and Chapter Four Uganda call upon authorities to refrain from further hindering the right to freedom of speech, association and peaceful assembly.
On September 20, 2017, police raided the premises of ActionAid Uganda (AAU) and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS) in Kampala as well as the house of GLISS Executive Director, Mr. Godbar Tumushabe. ActionAid Uganda works to foster human rights and fight poverty in the country. GLISS is an independent policy think tank actively involved in regional public policy and human rights issues in the Great Lakes sub-region.
A police pick-up truck parked outside Action Aid Offices in Kampala following the siege on 21st September 2017
Search warrants included allegations of “illicit transfer of funds for funding unlawful activities”. ActionAid Uganda premises have since been sealed off and several documents, electronic equipment and bank related documents were seized from both organisations. Searches were carried out overnight until the next day at both organisations and were supposed to resume at ActionAid Uganda premises on September 25, 2017 at 10:00 am.
Our organisations believe that the raid of the two NGOs merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities. Moreover, both organisations have been critical of the constitutional amendment to lift presidential age limit to allow President Yoweri Museveni, 73, to run for another term in 2021.
“Ugandan authorities are using preventive arrests and detention to stifle critical voices and intimidate human rights defenders. Authorities must put an end to any form of harassment, including at the judicial level, against civil society organisations and ensure that they are able to carry out their human rights activities without fear of retaliation”, said our organisations.
The Observatory, FHRI and Chapter Four Uganda urge Ugandan authorities to uphold their international obligations and ensure full respect for freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Several demonstrations planned in Kampala on September 21, 2017, as the motion was supposed to be discussed in Parliament, were contained by police forces who arrested several protesters. On that day, 28 youths were arrested at Makerere University and later detained in Wandegeya and Central police stations. 27 of them were released on bond the next day. One of them remained in detention at Central police station until September 25, 2017, on allegations of assault.
The same day, Mr. Erias Lukwago, Lord Mayor of Kampala, was briefly arrested on suspicion that he was going to lead a protest to Parliament. Earlier on, on September 18, 2017, the police fired teargas to disperse a group of youth activists protesting the constitutional amendment in front of the Parliament.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
For more information, please contact:
• FIDH: Samuel Hanryon (French, English): +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau (French, English): +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)
• FHRI: Sheila Muwanga (English): +256 773 486 911 (Kampala)
• Chapter Four: Magelah Peter Gwayaka (English) +256 782 500 041 (Kampala)
Uganda: Stop clampdown on supporters of presidential age limit
The Ugandan authorities must end their absurd attempts to silence people opposed to scrapping the presidential age limit, said Amnesty International today, as a motion on the controversial proposal was brought to parliament. Earlier today the mayor of the country’s capital, Kampala, was arrested by the police and bundled into a pick-up truck outside his home on suspicion that he was headed to a protest against the proposed change.
Some opposition MPs were blocked from accessing parliament to participate in the debate, which has now been postponed. Demonstrations against the change were also banned. “It is ironic and absurd that as the bill is tabled in parliament, the government is blocking citizens from debating the issue,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“All Ugandans must be allowed to freely express their views for or against issues of national importance to them. The actions the government is taking in this case amount to criminalizing dissent and contravene both Ugandan and international law.”The Executive Director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), a policy think-tank, who has spoken out against the proposal, was detained in his office for most of the day today following an overnight police siege there. ActionAid, an international NGO that works to combat poverty and injustice, was also raided on the same grounds.
“These raids are simply desperate attempts to harass and intimidate civil society organizations,” said Michelle Kagari.
“The authorities must stop these raids immediately and ensure that all confiscated materials are returned.”
The ruling party wants to amend the constitution to remove the presidential age limit of 75 years of age. The move is widely seen as a way of allowing incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, 73, to stand for President again in 2021.
The article discusses presidential authority as conceptualised by the fundamental laws that Uganda has adopted since it was declared a British Protectorate in 1894. Focusing on the Constitution of Uganda of 1995, the article argues that just like erstwhile fundamental laws, it was imposed on the country with the primary purpose of entrenching President Museveni in power, which is demonstrated by an analysis of the nature of the presidency that the Constitution establishes. The article proceeds to analyse how President Museveni has exercised the powers and privileges granted to the presidency under the Constitution with almost no legal constraints, including by perpetuating his incumbency in office without the possibility of him being removed through a constitutional process.
Constitutionalism is the idea that the powers of any government official, such as the president, can and should be limited, and that governmental authority flows from enforcing such limitations. Similarly, constitutions are conceived as an expression of the ruled and, therefore, the powers exercised under them are deemed to originate from the citizenry. In that context, meaningful participation by the citizenry in the process of making a constitution bestows popular legitimacy on the fundamental law.1 Second, minimising the possibility of misusing state powers enshrined in the Constitution embodies constitutionalism. Together, these principles form the cornerstone of modern constitutionalism. However, in constitution- making and analysis, presidential authority as established by fundamental laws adopted by Uganda before 1995 seems almost
superfluous and devoid of popular legitimacy. For example, the Uganda (Independence) Order-in-Council of 1962 (Independence Constitution) provided that ‘[t]he President shall take precedence over all persons in Uganda and shall not be liable to any legal proceedings whatsoever in any court’.2 The Constitution of Uganda of 1967 (Republic Constitution) declared that ‘[t]he President acting in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet may at any time dissolve Parliament.’3
The problem, however, is that before 1995, Ugandans were governed under fundamental laws that were either negotiated among the country’s leaders or imposed on them by heads of state. Therefore, executive authority as enjoyed by heads of state under such laws lacked popular legitimacy as Ugandans had not contributed to determining how they were governed. The article argues that such laws were crafted to maintain in power heads of state under whose leadership they were adopted and, therefore, did not provide sufficient limitations on presidential authority. It is from such fundamental laws that executive authority in Uganda has evolved.
In December 1988, when the process of adopting the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda of 1995 (Constitution of 1995) began, for the first time, Ugandans embarked on the process of adopting a popular constitution.4 During the consultation exercise, Ugandans sought to revise executive powers, among other reforms, in an attempt to develop constraints that would avert the misrule that the country had experienced since independence. Instead, what emerged out of the national consultation process is the presumption that the presidency is entitled to uncircumscribed powers. This supposition has fostered incumbency perpetuation and the abuse of state powers, among other things. As is demonstrated in this article, during the Constitution-making exercise, calls for reforms on presidential authority were ignored by the framers of the new Constitution who were intent on granting President Museveni enduring power. In addition, the legal instruments that were established for the purposes of adopting the new constitution favoured the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government. This allowed the NRM to appropriate the constitution-making exercise, and to establish a Constitution that would maintain President Museveni in power. Therefore, similar to erstwhile fundamental laws, the Constitution of 1995 was crafted in a manner that granted unlimited and enduring power to the leadership under which it was adopted.
Crispin Kaheru, CCEDU
It is quite unfortunate that at a time when Uganda is struggling with evils such as insecurity characterized by unresolved murders; widespread land evictions; natural disasters and unabated corruption, some politicians have in that heat of the moment chosen to instead pay attention to promoting and sponsoring debate around the amendment of article 102(b) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda – to remove the age limits (35 – 75) for presidential candidates.
First, this not only demonstrates how non-empathetic the agents of that debate are but it also speaks volumes to the levels of insensitivity that exist in Uganda as a whole. With the hierarchy of issues that the country is facing now as already enumerated, the discussion on age limit would ideally be at the lowest of the ladder. But be that as it may, we have to contend with it, because it is now here before us.
To amend or not to amend article 102(b) is an issue of the Constitution. In my humble understanding, once you move to touch on the Constitution, then you have advanced to touch on the heart and soul of the nation. No discussion around the Constitution can be deemed complete without summoning the entire nation to pronounce itself on any alterations being made. Therefore, any discussions on Constitution amendments must reflect the will of the people – not just the will of their representatives.
If there is going to be anything such as a discussion around the amendment of the Constitution, members of Parliament must in all honesty consult with their constituencies and represent the voice of their electorate. The bottom line is, citizens must stand at the center of any discussions around the Constitution – if it is truly their constitution. There must be a genuine consultative process to determine if that soul of the nation must or must not be tinkered with.
But in any case, where we stand now at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any compelling reasons as to why we must at this point in time amend article 102(b) and not any other articles in the Constitution. There has been longstanding pursuits from nearly all quotas of society to amend article 105 of the Constitution to reinstate two-five-year term limits on the presidency – these calls have not been heeded; what makes the amendment of article 102(b) a matter of life and death? Again, why amend it before it is tested to know whether or not it is defective? Someone once said, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”. Some of those in positions of influence seem to be pre-occupied with fixing things that are not broken and leaving those that are (too) broken unfixed.
A few years ago the country pronounced itself on the need to amend article 60 of the Constitution to have the Electoral Commission (EC) appointed through a public, transparent and competitive process – rather than it being appointed just by the President; many elections have come and gone by, and the mode of appointment of the EC has not been changed. And here we are confronted with elections that go challenged every time, leading to endless by-elections; by-elections where lots of money is injected with little or no return on investment. What makes the removal of the age limits a case of emergency at this particular point? Again, isn’t it more urgent to deal with the insecurity that is resulting into multiple murders and death of Ugandans every other day? Is it not more crucial to deal with the creeping culture of impunity in both public and private spaces? How I wish I could be helped to understand how the amendment of article 102(b) will foster peace and social cohesion in an increasingly divided and intolerant society that we are seeing.
What sort of loss will the country face if the age limits are not tampered with? Will global stock markets crash or will Uganda cease to exist? How will the amendment of article 102(b) create more jobs for Ugandans, generate more power, fix the bad roads? Will it take the economy out of the debilitated position in which it currently is? Only how I wish I were told that the amendment will ease the terrible traffic jams in Kampala or better still reduce the cost of public administration, curb poverty, reduce the rising inequality and sort out the wave of disasters.
Those routing for the amendment should show Ugandans how the change will create more investment opportunities for Uganda, result into better quality social services, provide food to the hunger stricken or better still, drive the country to a middle income status.
Where we stand now, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between removing age limits from the Constitution and delivering on those things that Ugandans want and need most.
Proponents of the amendment could easily pass for self-seekers who are sightless to the plight of Ugandans. This is a sting project and the promoters can only be seen as individualistic and opportunistic figures who may, for all we know, be exploring their own vested interests and personal gain out of this venture.
It ain’t broken, don’t fix it!
Civil society offices of Action Aid in Kasanga and Great Lakes Institute For Strategic Studies in Ntinda are under police siege with staff not allowed to leave the premises.
Police cordoned off the offices this evening, according to the sworn affidavit sworn before by Makindye Chief Magistrate's court by AIP Henry Peter Walya attached to the Criminal Investigations Department because Action Aid in particular is suspected of being used for elicit transfer of funds for illegal activities.
The two NGOs have been vocal against the lifting of the presidential age limit from between 35 years and 75 years from the Constitution.
According to Crispin Kaheru, coordinator of the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CEDDU), police indicated interest in the IT, Accounts and Country Director's offices. All electronic devices were put under search according to him.
Yesterday, 287 of 296 the National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs voted in support of a motion by Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi seeking leave to present a private member's bill to lift age limit from the Constitution.
In a related development, Police chief Gen Kale Kayihura has banned any processions ahead of the anticipated debate in Parliament over lifting the age limit. Opposition MPs and civil society had called on the citizenry to attend parliament to witness the 'castration' of the Constitution. It is also understood that NRM has also mobolised its supporters to counter any opposition demonstrators.
Kayihura has advised the demonstrators to use other means such as TV and radio networks, indoor meeting, electronic and print media among others to express their support or disapproval.
Article Published by The Observer.
A Critical Analysis of the Supreme Court Decisions
Dr. Fred Sekindi is a lecturer in International Public Law and International Human Rights at Nkumba University and a consultant tutor with the African Prisons Project in Uganda
This article analyses the constitutional and domestic legal framework under which the president of Uganda has been elected since 1995. The focus is on the three Supreme Court decisions in the adjudication of presidential electoral disputes in 2001, 2006 and in 2016. It argues that presidential electoral laws are deficient in their capacity to facilitate fair political contestation. This is because they were not adequately constructed to address electoral malpractices pertaining to Uganda, and they have been interpreted to favour the incumbent.
Keywords: Constitution of Republic of Uganda 1995, electoral offences, presidential elections, presidential electoral laws, presidential electoral petition, Supreme Court
The post-1995 constitutional reforms in Uganda were aimed at averting violent struggles for political power. One of these reforms was the introduction of direct presidential elections. The significance of this is that since the Constitution of 1995 came into force, and for the first time in the country’s history, the majority of Ugandans could elect their president directly. In addition, more Ugandans than before are eligible to stand for election as president. This article studies how the Supreme Court in Uganda has adjudicated presidential electoral disputes since 1995. It evaluates the efficacy of the constitutional and domestic legal framework under which the president of Uganda is elected, in protecting fair
political contestation in order to achieve its objectives. This article further argues that presidential electoral laws have been constructed without attention to the electoral lawlessness prevalent in Uganda. These laws make it almost impossible to challenge the outcome of the election, particularly where the declared winner is the incumbent. Therefore, the laws are incapable of converting votes into a truly democratic choice, and are consequently unable to avert violent struggles for political power.
The article opens with a background to the development of the post-1995 legal framework under which the president of Uganda is elected. This is followed by an analysis of the decisions of the Constitutional Court in the presidential election petitions of 2001, 2006 and 2016. This in turn is followed by an explanation of the principles employed by the Constitutional Court in adjudicating presidential electoral complaints and a discussion of the deficiencies in the presidential electoral laws. The article also offers an alternative interpretation to the principles for adjudicating presidential electoral laws in an effort to address the electoral lawlessness that has plagued presidential elections in Uganda since 1996. Finally, the findings of this study are discussed in the conclusion. Methodologically, this article is a product of desk research including a review of primary sources (cases, constitutions, and statutes) and secondary documents (books, journals, and newspapers).