A return of ‘Togikwatako’ as Museveni starts process to ban court bail

The commander in chief of Uganda's armed forces wants a clause that allows courts to give bail to suspects in the constitution be amended.

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CONCERNED: According to President Museveni, some suspects who are charged with offences that are capital in nature, when granted bail cause so much hatred and anger amongst respective communities and might force them to take law into their hands.

In September 2017, exactly four years ago, scuffles broke out in Uganda’s parliament during a debate on plans to remove the presidential age limit.

After what started as a rumor in the media
had finally reached the plenary of the August House, things turned ugly.

The members of Parliament especially from the opposition had sworn to use what ever means they had so that the bill that sought to remove the upper(75) and lower(35) age cap on presidential candidates does not graduate into law.

The scuffle that ensued in Uganda’s Parliament in 2017 as opposition MPs resisted the passing into law a bill which intended to give a leeway to Ugandans to contest for presidency without age limit.

Their argument was that it was being framed to allow Mr Museveni rule for life

On the other hand, most of the NRM law makers who were (and still) the majority in the house had made sure the numbers count on the voting day.

The epitome of the nasty scenes was on the 27th of September as a fight broke up between the MPs and security personnel. The security had been invited into the house to force out the 25 legislators who had been suspended by speaker Rebecca Kadaga.

To cut the long story short, the bill was passed despite the resistance and it was signed into law by president Yoweri Museveni.

And consequently, Mr Museveni who was already above 75, contested and won his sixth elective term without any law binding hinderance.

Fast forward, the year is 2021, September. The president has started another campaign.

The commander in chief of Uganda’s armed forces wants a clause that allows courts to give bail to suspects in the constitution be amended.

Mr. Museveni insists there’s need for a  Constitutional review on  when it comes to  the right to bail in relation to traditional justice systems.

According to President Museveni, some suspects who are charged with offences that are capital in nature, when granted bail cause so much hatred and anger amongst respective communities and might force them to take law into their hands.

In his speech at the fourth annual Ben Kiwanuka memorial lecture at the High Court grounds in Kampala on Monday, the president insisted that those accused of murder should not be granted bail.

“I have got a record that when they ( CJ Benjamin Odoki Commission) were going around, the population  said that there should be no bail for some certain offences. Bail had been left to the discretion of Court but now it has been made a right of a suspect including those on Capital offences,” Mr Museveni said.

The president argues that it is unfair for someone accused of having killed another person to be seen walking free on streets after being granted bail.

“In no time we are now being told that bail is a right. Really! Somebody has killed a person and you see him walking here! This is a provocation I can tell you. Judges must be very careful because they are playing in a very dangerous area which we can’t accept,” the president said in a hard tone.

The man who fondly refers to himself as ‘Ssaabalwanyi’ (warrior) insisted that the issue of granting bail to people accused of murder will make the public lose trust in government and especially the judiciary.

“This bail is a big provocation. It will cause us problems. It will discredit the whole system including the judiciary. We are going to address it constitutionally. I am very ready to engage with judiciary but also take it up politically to constitutionally see what to do. It is going to cause us a lot of problems.”

Although the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo reminded the president that bail is constitutionally allowed, mr Museveni asserted to the fact that something must be done as urgently as possible.

The Chief Justice noted that many factors are considered by judicial officers before granting bail to accused people but insisted bail is a constitutional right.

“The constitution gives discretion to judicial officers to grant bail. A judicial officer doesn’t wake up from the wrong side of the bed and deny bail to an applicant or wake up from the right side of the bed to grant bail to all and sundry. The rules for grant of bail are clear and there are many factors considered,” Dollo said.

Museveni thus vowed to tackle the matter politically.

President Museveni and wife Janet Museveni (seated) poss for a photo with judicial officers on Monday after the fourth annual Ben Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture in Kampala- COURTESY PHOTO.

As a matter of urgency, the National Resistance Movement Chairman has summoned his parliamentary caucus for a Tuesday meeting at the Kololo Independence Grounds.

Much as the discussion will reportedly hinge on a number of issues relating to the legislative agenda for this Parliament, sources say the controversial amendment of the clause is top priority.

However some of the MPs who have spoken to the media said they would not support the proposal while others said they were still undecided.

All that said and done though, history has shown that every time the MPs meet their chairman, return with weakened hearts and softened muscles.

The MPs on the left side of the speaker have however warned their colleagues about the repercussions of supporting such an amendment that they say will indiscriminately haunt them in future.

The amendment, the opposition say is unconstitutional, unethical, and violates the human rights of suspects.

They fear that once passed, it’s likely to target politicians.
The MPs suggest that it is subjected to a referendum so that Ugandans can decide.

As it stands, the proposal for the amendment of Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda that guarantees the right to bail is likely to be be decided in parliament.

But the question remains whether or not it will be another of the 2017 ‘Togikwatako’ horror movie that portraid Uganda’s law makers as a bunch of comedians to the world.

KAMPALA BUSINESS RADIO