Flipping through the Daily Monitor today, a story caught my eye. The title was “House Condemns Besigye Arrest, Ridicules Amama”. For those who do not know, yesterday Thursday 9th July, two presidential aspirants – one for Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and the other for the National Resistance Movement (NRM), were both arrested by police as they made their way to address their maiden audiences in a bid to consult about their candidature. Besigye is a leading opposition figure and Amama Mbabazi is a former Prime Minister in the ruling Government.
This paragraph in the story caught my eye “Lawmakers, especially from the ruling NRM party, yesterday asked Parliament to clap for the arrest of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, as they reminded him to reap what he sowed in reference to his prime role in the passing of the Public Order Management Act (POMA).”
My heart broke when I read that paragraph because the MPs were being so short sighted and insincere in their action. For all intents and purposes, laws in Uganda are not made by one person’s vote. I remember that the day POMA was passed, I was rushing from Kabale in South Western Uganda to go join my civil society colleagues in Parliament, so that we could watch the MPs debate this law. On that afternoon the ruling party had whipped their members to ensure that there was a full House in order to guarantee a majority vote in favor of the POMA. So while the MPs are now clapping that Mbabazi ‘passed’ the POMA, they too had a hand in it. They too condemned Ugandans to a blatant violation of the rights to freedom of assembly and association. If they had wanted to, they could have used their majority in Parliament to vote against the POMA but they didn’t.
When they clap that Amama was arrested, they are really showing that they do not understand that they too are to blame. In fact the 9th Parliament has been quite complicit in supporting the violation of the rights of Ugandans. As they were pointing one finger at Mbabazi, their four other fingers were pointing right back at them. What the MPs forget is that the POMA is dangerous to all Ugandans, and so rather than clap that it has ‘caught’ the chief architect, they should be demanding the immediate repeal of that obnoxious law!
Many Ugandan are now dealing with the effects of the law, including 7 youths who were today arrested by police merely for holding a press conference condemning the arrest of Besigye and Amama. No sooner had the 7 youths finished addressing the press, than police surrounded them and whisked them off. Their lawyer failed to get them released because police kept giving him a run around. The police made it hard for people to present themselves as sureties for the 7 youths because as one of the preconditions, police demanded that the sureties must have national IDs. Everyone knows how poorly the National ID project was handled and the fact that to date, not everyone has received their IDs, so to make it a precondition for sureties, is to defeat the course of justice.
The youths were not arraigned before court precisely because police was fumbling around looking for a charge to prefer. Now unfortunately, the youths are going to spend the weekend in a police cell in Naggalama, Kayunga, merely for speaking out against bad governance.
I feel a deep pain when I watch events in my country. I feel an even deeper pain that when we need our leaders to rise above, instead they are playing gutter politics. They are involved in mob (in)justice by clapping when a Uganda suffers injustice – forgetting that an injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us.
While I wholeheartedly join the chorus of people demanding the quick release of the 7 youth and the many others that were and have been arrested under the POMA and other draconian laws, my cry is also for freedom for my country – freedom from tyranny, oppression, discrimination, misrule and corruption.
With raised fist and loud voice I cry out – Free Karamagi Now! Free Uganda Now!