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FREE Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine and others

[…] “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches.”
— Matthew 13:31–32

Firstly, my sympathies go out to the family of Bobi Wine’s slain driver Yassin, in particular to his wife and young children. I also send my sympathies to the families of Bobi Wine and all the Ugandans who are incarcerated as part of the events of Arua. You are all in our solemn prayers.
Secondly, the attack on the presidential convoy must be condemned by every right thinking, and peace-loving Ugandan regardless of political affiliation. It was as reckless as it was dangerous. The Special Forces Command (SFC) could have opened fire on the crowds leading to grave fatalities. Fortunately, they did not shoot into the crowds in the immediate aftermath. An attack on or assassination of the president serves no useful purpose except plunge the country into chaos and possible genocide.

The crux of my intervention in the #FREE BOBI WINE is to first add my voice and cries on those of tens of thousands, for his, and his colleagues’, immediate and unconditional release from detention. Hon. Kyagulanyi is also my parliamentary representative (MP) in the constituency of Kyadondo East, I owe him for his good service and for being a voice for many – regardless of whether or not we agree with him.

He should at least be granted bail on ‘humanitarian grounds’ to seek urgent medical attention from his doctors in the exercise of his freedoms as any other Ugandan.
In 1986, HE President Museveni made a pact with and promised, Ugandans a fundamental change in the politics of our government. Indeed the president reiterated this vision of a new Uganda in 1997 in his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda. In this book, the president vilified Obote for exacerbating our socio-economic problems and especially for creating political conditions that led to the emergence of Gen. Idi Amin which subsequently led to the destruction of the fabric of Ugandan society.

The political and security trajectory of our democratisation process is very worrisome to anyone from any political affiliation – NRM, FDC, DP, UPC, CP, Independents etc. this is particularly true were by-elections are held such as in Arua and Bugiri, inter alia. This is in part due to the concentration of many political heavyweights in a small geographical location amidst politically divided, emotionally excited and charged crowds which is a nightmare for the security apparatus to keep control of. The Electoral Commission needs to urgently rethink its management of by-elections.

The condition of Hons. Kyagulanyi and Zaake and allegations that they were severely tortured.
The reports and pictures circulating on various social media platforms are very disturbing and concerning. Indeed, and regrettably, they add to the veracity that inhumane degrading treatment and torture was meted out by the security forces to the Arua detainees including Bobi Wine and Zaake during their arrest and whilst in their custody. Torture is an abhorrent practice and has no place in modern society. Those who torture, the torturers, have become, like the slave trader, hostis humani generis – an enemy of mankind!! This is why its revulsion is so widespread that it has led to the cluster of international treaty and customary rules and has gained a similar status to that of principles prohibiting other heinous crimes like genocide and war crimes among others.

Torture and inhumane treatment is not only morally abhorrent but is also illegal, in international law and under the sovereign laws of Uganda. The prohibition of torture has acquired the status of jus cogens – a norm from which no derogation, even I times of national emergency, is permitted which articulates the notion that the prohibition is one of the most fundamental standards of the international community.

This is precisely why the government should investigate, condemn and prosecute the perpetrators and reaffirm its commitment of a fundamental change and a new democratic dispensation – where we are all equal before the law and enjoy those freedoms (expression, assembly etc.) that are enshrined in our constitution. In the same vein, the president to extend his hand of forgiveness [not to be confused with the prerogative of mercy] towards Bobi Wine, Zaake et alia to kerb their forthcoming criminal proceedings both in the military and civil courts. Let his Excellency speak out and speak out loud against this morally reprehensible and utterly illegal practice that is tainting the image of our security forces – NOT IN MY NAME.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation as a precursor to an orderly transition.

Forgiveness is a virtue that was discovered by Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The fact that he made this discovery in a religious context and articulated it in religious language is no reason to take it any less seriously in a strictly secular sense. Indeed, it has been in the nature of our tradition of political thought and political experiences to ‘forgive the unforgivable’ in order to inaugurate a new community of people. Uganda desperately needs this.
Mandela understood this best when he said in an address to the 26th General assembly of the OAU in 1990 under the chair of H.E Y.K Museveni, that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.” This was later reaffirmed in the preamble of the 1996 S. Africa constitution which enabled the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) under Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Critics of the 32 year NRM rule can say what they like, and rightly so – perhaps. However, it is inconceivable that whatever has been done, whatever gross violations of our rights they are alleged to have committed are at par with S. Africa’s apartheid historicity…and yet they found a platform under the TRC to usher in a model of restorative justice which was underpinned by the granting of amnesties for politically motivated crimes thereby expunging them. It is this that enabled the inauguration of a new S. Africa – “for all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
This is why the work of the ‘Elders Forum’ is vitally important in our current constitutionalisation and democratisation process, they and we must not give up on substantive dialoguing with clear principles and rejecting the politics of intolerance and vengeance – from all sides (NRM and the opposition alike).
For God and My Country

Julius J Ndawula
LLM Constitutional/Human Rights Law, Politics and Theory.
London UK

Abbey Kiwanuka
MSt. International Human Rights Law