By Ofwono Opondo
Several events during the past few weeks, including the loud silence on attack by political hoodlums on Buganda road Chief Magistrate, Gladys Kamasanyu, has exposed Uganda’s human rights defenders, opposition, and ‘champions’ of democracy, as paying lip service to the rule of law. It is a pointer that Ugandans must collectively keep vigilance on watchdog charlatans because no one is safe with them.
Hooligans, who had the boldness to dress in t-shirts associated with the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who assaulted a judge during court proceedings, should tell Ugandans what leadership FDC provides. The hooligans were allegedly aggrieved by the prosecution and conviction of Nyanzi, on cyber harassment, yet the same magistrate, Kamasanyu acquitted her of the offence of disturbing the peace, quiet and privacy of a person, namely Museveni. It is the usual duality by opposition elements who, whenever they lose a case in court direct personal attacks on judicial officers, yet when acquitted, shout judicial independence.
Then, supported by the new political outfit of the wily-wind ‘people power’ , also dressed in their insignia, should send chills down the spine on Ugandans being tempted to give these hoodlums even the slightest benefit of the doubt, claiming to be young progressive minds. If these had been groups associated with government or the NRM, many bet, editorials would have been written by almost every media house, and the European Union and US missions issued public condemnation.
The gangster fringes of these two political groups ought to not be left effectively unchallenged in the public democratic space, and government law enforcement machinery, otherwise the very hard earned stability, tranquility, rule of law and democracy, could disintegrate into lawlessness. The assault and harassment of Kamasanyu comes against the backdrop of a running court case against Dr Stella Nyanzi, reportedly an FDC activist who according to information intends to contest for Kampala woman MP in the 2021 parliamentary elections. Some people, claim that Nyanzi’s outspokenness and abrasiveness is meant to bolster her political profile to defeat all the other opposition contenders, and also taken down NRM. It’s a known strategy that some opposition female politicians among them Cecilia Ogwal, Beatrice Anywar, Miria Matembe, Brenda Nabukenya, Christine Abia, and Ingrid Turinawe have used, although the later four have since fizzled out.
Nyanzi first appeared before the same court last year on charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication against President Yoweri Museveni and his later mother Esteri Kokundeka, granted bail but declined opting to remain in custodial remand in remand in Luzira prison, and she is entitled to her choices. While many, including President Museveni, think that the offences for which Nyanzi was charged, are archaic, it remains valid until repealed. Magistrates and judges are simply arbiters in disputes taken before them, and therefore no party should visit anger and physical violence upon them for performing their constitutional duty.
And for two weeks in a row, the media, again fell for an absurd narrative in the unfortunate death from an own motor cycle road accident, of a rather little-known upcoming young musician, one Michael Alinda, a.k.a. Zigy Wyne. To confess, many, I inclusive, had never heard of this guy, or his music, although, we are saddened by his tragic demise. Only last week, the media fabricated stories on electoral reform bills with draconian provisions government had purportedly presented to parliament but there is no trace of such bills in parliament.
All major media platforms, playing alongside the political scavengers, had spewed misinformation, much of it deliberately concocted and distorted, to frame the government as having ‘kidnapped, tortured, and murdered’, Zigy, before plucking out his two eyes and fingers. It’s good and professional, that The New Vision retracted it.
Even by this standard, those who dislike the NRM government, or rather as becoming apparent now, its enemies, ought to be smarter next time they want to discredit it, but not just telling brazen lies. Fortunately, the police, came rather quickly to provide the details of scene of accident, first and subsequent responders, rescuers, recovered motorcycle, medical facilities and personnel that treated other victims including Zigy. The police in-depth report, backed by multiple eye-witness accounts from ordinary citizens, even to haters of truth, has left the shenanigans embarrassed in mischief.
State torture, arbitrariness, disrespect for the rule of law and established procedures, and general negligence of duty are vices that NRM fights daily, and should constantly be exposed, roundly condemned, and have no place in a modern democratic Uganda. However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the media is failing or simply getting compromised, and therefore citizens must keep vigilant eyes on the watchdog itself.
Curiously, though not surprising, the plethora of media organisations championing professional journalism, haven’t publicly called out their members for the glaring errant behaviour, professional incompetence, negligence, and misconduct in any of these recent high profile stories. The loud-mouthed African Centre for media Excellence (ACME), often quick to issue statements, is this time dumb silent while the public is being fed with vile scum.