The Daily Monitor of January 7 published a story titled, ‘British MPs to debate rule of law in Uganda’, in which a British MP, Mr Paul Williams, is sponsoring a debate on the floor of the British Parliament on Uganda’s governance.
Both the intention and allegations of Mr Williams about President Museveni and Uganda are fallacious, imperialistic as well as inaccurate. Inaccurate because it won’t be debate, but a mentioning because the British Parliament has its precious time invested wisely.
First, Mr Williams, a wonderful UK legislator, should realise that Uganda has come a long. That was when the pangs of British colonial rule where there was no iota of democracy permitted by his ancestors - through the insecurities of the 1960s, Idi Amin’s most diabolic regime of the 1970s which was initially supported by the West that claimed thousands of lives, including British nationals, to the revolution of President Museveni that brought along with it the devolution of power to local government units.
It also ushered in greater youth and women participation in unprecedented political decision making, predictable and regular elections after every five years, the restoration of the rule of law (no extra-judicial killings) and traditional institutions, which were banned in the 1960s. If these and more achievements of the Museveni administration do not connote an expanded political democratic space in Uganda to Mr Williams and his ilk, then the chickens have come home to roost.
Secondly, if Mr Williams’ insinuations regarding Uganda’s democratic progress do not boarder on imperialism as well as overarching and intrusive gymnastics, then he has failed to understand the basic tenets of democracy.
For example, the British political system, let alone being currently stuck in the same rack of the ill-informed Brexit quagmire, does not permit term and age limits for the Prime Minister and other leaders.
Mr Williams and co-sponsors of the misplaced debate on Uganda’s democracy seem to suffer from cognitive deficit regarding the basic ingredients pluralism. Can Uganda Parliament debate Brexit?
The sponsors of the debate invited Robert Kyagulanyi [MP] to attend. Well and good. He will sojourn out of the country unscathed and get back without a scratch. But was that possible in the 1970s and part of the 1980s?
Opponents of the then governments would be detained and eventually disappear never to be seen again. And Mr Williams want us to believe that the current situation is more dire than our ignominious past, no Sir.
Those who cross the red lines of Uganda’s laws while enjoying their democratic space, should not be oblivious of others’ rights. In other words, that enjoyment is not mutually exclusive.
Thirdly, the Ugandan voter is a resident here, not in the UK, where many from the Opposition’s stock sojourn to look for non-existent sympathy and vote.
It also tells of how Museveni’s opponents have failed to impress the Uganda voter and expecting to get political mileage overseas. The Ugandan voter is here, not overseas! There is absolutely no interface between this voter and the foreign one overseas on Ugandan matters.
Fourthly, constitutions change. For instance, Uganda’s 1962 Constitution provided for a federal system of government. The current one provides for decentralisation. Mr Williams’ UK has no written Constitution, but there are scores of other countries that have amended their constitutions to suit the changing times.
In other words, constitutions should not imprison us like Mr Williams and others would like us to believe when they argue that “…the President (Museveni) keeps changing the Constitution in order to protect himself… and the system of patronage…”
What has mattered in Uganda’s political space is: What do the majority of Ugandans say? And they have, severally, spoken by democratically removing term and age limits, which measures have irked the minority and their foreign and neo-colonial backers. Mr Williams and his friends would have had a point if President Museveni used decrees, which he hasn’t, to amend the Constitution as that would be a one man’s show, autocratic and dictatorial.
Uganda’s Constitution under Articles 259, 260, 261 and 262 provides for such amendments. Is Mr Williams aware of this?
Mr Mayega is the Deputy Head of Mission
Uganda Embassy, Beijing, China