The retired Supreme Court Judge George W. Kanyeihamba has said that President Yoweri Museveni’s move to scrap bail for suspected capital offenders is a direct sign that he is not different from his predecessor:- Gen Idi Amin Dada who ruthlessly ruled Uganda.
Kanyeihamba who was also the chairman of the Legal Committee of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1995 National Constitution told the media on Wednesday that by removing a right to bail is the worst statement Museveni could make as far as justice and democracy are concerned.
“As you know I was one of the delegates in the constituent assembly and during the making of that constitution we spent four days debating on the issue of freedom and bail in particular. The background of this was that many Ugandans had been incarcerated and killed by the security forces of Idi Amin in the past. Many people disappeared others were imprisoned beyond the stipulated time because the idea of the bail was not known,” Kanyeihamba stated.
“We supported President Museveni and NRM. Fortunately, he defeated Idi Amin and we thought we would never see leaders like Amin in this country again, I’m horrified at my old age that we are going back to those old days of Aminism, of authoritarianism of belittling the court to reduce their IQs to despise them.”
The retired Justice further cautioned that Uganda is a free country where everybody is entitled to freedom and given its history it would not have been the one who called himself a freedom fighter to support what he once fought against.
“This is a country whose history President Museveni knows very well, a history that made him go in the bush to reverse it. Unfortunately, he has got a short memory and he is doing the same issues that made them go in the bush.”
Kanyeyimba noted that the right to apply for bail is sacred, unalterable and a human right for which Uganda has signed many conventions and treaties to protect.
“Before president Museveni and his caucus alter the provision of bail, he should, first of all, withdraw Uganda from all the treaties it has signed that guarantee bail globally. He however must know that Uganda is bigger than him. The 40 million people are much wiser than his NRM caucus,” he said.
It’s almost three weeks since President Museveni displayed his zeal and desire to scrap bail for suspected capital offenders, especially those facing murder charges. In his recent nation address, President Museveni said releasing murder suspects who have not yet completed 180 days on remand is a provocation.
‘‘I will not accept the issue of a bond by police in cases like this. I’m going to discuss with the Attorney General to see how we stop this nonsense. On the issue of bail, we are continuing to discuss this with stakeholders and nobody will stop us,’’ he said. ”How can we have a system like this? First of all, it annoys people because for them they may not know the difference between bail and being released. The public gets annoyed.’’
However, his argument has been bashed by many Ugandans especially legal officers.
Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, during the Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture at High Court Building also recently explained to Museveni that the Constitution, which is the country’s supreme law, allows judges to grant or deny bail.
“We know that capital offences are a grave concern to the community,” he said, “So, in the exercise of judicial discretion, it’s the duty of the judicial officer to look at all these circumstances and make a decision whether to grant or not to grant.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Justice Jane Frances Abodo has also cautioned that bail depends on the judicial officers not the wishes of individuals. “The debate about bail is ranging on and the law on bail is very clear. It says everyone has a right to apply, but whether you are granted or not, is at the discretion of the judicial officer. Which means each case should be taken on its merit.”
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