Controversial re-election, court battles depict Museveni’s nature
In his previous column; Life Presidency: Africa’s governance cancer, the author quoted a renowned Greek philosopher who once said that: “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst creature
So, where else or how more excellently is this Aristotle’s witty observation reflected than in current Uganda’s shameful Presidential and parliamentary election polls and subsequent court battles? Of course there were references in that column to rampant constitutional amendments and other draconian laws to protect incumbents in power and deny potential political opponents any chance of succeeding them through credible free and fair elections. But indeed not the criminal impunity the world is witnessing in our beloved Pearl African country Uganda!
In the couple of weeks following the February 18 election chaos, the scenes preceding the election results declaration on February 20 are unbelievable. In fact from the day the self-proclaimed ‘only visionary leader’ ascended to the throne in 1986, there has never been a level ground presidential campaigns- later on credible free and fair election under President Yoweri Museveni regime.
This author, academia and other peace-loving people the world over have always contended that rule of law, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and opinions, separation of powers, regular periodic elections and other governance pillars are the hearts to various democratic, open, coherent and peaceful societies.
On the contrary though, Uganda seems to have got to the climax of President Museveni’s regrettable tenure in office. And to be honest, crafting this piece has been supplemented by a renowned Kenyan satiric cartoonist for public Daily Nation newspaper. Mr. Godfrey Mwapembwa pen-named Gado drew a cartoon titled: “The Coronation of M7, King of Uganda” depicting President Museveni’s February controversial presidential elections win.
The cartoon features a pot-belled Gen. Museveni in his traditional intimidating military attire, armed with an AK 47 machinegun seated in a decorated King’s Highness Chair with helpless opposition, clergy and civil society personalities on their knees in the background, while the electoral commission, in an image of a fierce leopard is hiding dossiers, apparently, the ballot materials. The national police detectives are drawn besides the King in aggressive action- an accurate highlight of the current post-elections fracas in Kampala.
Unfortunately, the poor cartoonist Gado has subsequently been sacked for the work excellently done! No wonder President Uhuru Kenyatta was the first to send a congratulatory message to his Ugandan counterpart amidst the dissatisfaction of the ordinary Kenyan citizens who disowned their president’s move on social media.
Ironically, the only other Head of State in the East African Community bloc to offer a congratulatory message to President Museveni is the equally embattled Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza whose contested third term tenure were being arbitrated by Museveni in the Arusha peace negotiations . So, actually one wonders whether it was a heart-felt congratulatory message. Or wasn’t it literally an eye-for-an-eye sarcastic message like saying: ‘should I have equally admonished you’?
Ordinarily, in a democratic society, once election results are contested by any of the genuine parties to it, the competent and mandated arbiter is the state’s legal arm- Uganda’s Supreme Court in this case. And for this to happen, the incumbent party to the born of contention- candidate Museveni- is obliged to refrain from illegally using state operatives to intimidate, harass and detain aggrieved parties.
Be it as it may, in the African context, once a soldier always a soldier. Gen. Yoweri Museveni knows at the bottom of his heart that retired Col. Dr. Warren Kiiza Besigye, Gen. Gregory Mugisha Muntu, Col. Nuwe Amanya Mushega and the like are combat-hardened former comrades at arms-come-arch rivals who cannot simply bark-off at his mere intimidation.
Dr. Besigye is in fact a record President Museveni’s fiercest political opponent ever- four times main opposition candidate and two times genuine court challenger of his re-election to presidency. Well aware of the flaws in the rather coward maneuvers he orchestrated against his opponents; incompetent elections body, partisan national police, lack of level campaign ground, blatant intimidation of opponents and their supporters, voter bribery, arrest and illegal incarceration of Dr. Besigye and his key poll agents, he knew of eminent court petitioning of his re-election.
Thus, the logic behind the continued incarceration of the fiercest political rival, ransacking of FDC headquarters for credible indelible ink against candidate Museveni by national police and intelligence detectives were literally to bloc timely court petition by genuine contender FDC candidate and kill all the case evidence.
Little did the NRM ideologues know that former ally-come-independent candidate Amama Mbabazi, previously iconic figure and party secretary general would file a petition contesting President Museveni’s alleged win, especially considering his minimal 1.34 % votes apportioned to his candidacy by the National Electoral Commission.
However, the born of contention before the panel of nine learned friends is whether the incumbent president was fraudulently re-elected or not. And this third court challenge of Museveni’s re-election again puts Ugandan judiciary’s integrity at national and international spotlights.
The Judges’ career vulnerability has been broadened by the fact that nine Makerere University law faculty dons joined the presidential election battle in the capacity of ‘friends of court’ to remind Justice Bart Katurebe’s panel that in the past two presidential election petitions of Dr. Kizza Besigye Vs Yoweri Museveni of 2001 and 2006, the Supreme Court came up and made several recommendations aimed at having free and fair elections.
Key among such crucial recommendations was that the law experts contended in court that retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki demanded in the 2001 petition that in the subsequent presidential elections, there had to be a level ground to ensure that the incumbent does not enjoy an unfair advantage over the other candidates.
The other issue averred to court by the law dons was that there has to be an atmosphere free of intimidation, bribery, violence, coercion of anything intended to subvert the will of the people. But Museveni’s government has put all that outcries to trash as the incumbent has always used State machinery in his subsequent campaigns, giving him an unfair advantage over his political foes.
Moreover, considering the international election observer teams of the Commonwealth and the European Union who concurred that all the aforementioned election vices were rampant and largely subverted the Ugandan people’s will, each judge’s choice is to either enviously guide his/her career integrity or retain the job in the post-election regime.