Voting Patterns in Uganda: A Case Study of Uncle X

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In 1996, one of my relatives (let us call him X) was an ardent supporter of President Museveni. He said he could now sleep peacefully unlike in the past. Mentioning Dr. Ssemogerere was near treason in his home.

In 2001, he stuck to President Museveni and religiously sung the “No Change” slogan. However on Election Day eve, some “unknown” gunmen went and attacked one of our uncle’s home (he was a Reform Agenda official). They shot at his house and left a grenade in the compound. When that news reached X, he immediately changed his mind and voted for Dr Besigye because he believed the attack on his brother’s home was due to his political views.

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Come 2006, X is totally converted and wants change. He, without blinking an eye, voted for Dr. Besigye, whose imprisonment during the campaign time made him a darling of the voters.

Lastly, 2011: Uncle X was still in love with his Colonel. Then when Mzee Bidandi Ssali of PPP was campaigning in Bukedea, he stated that Dr Besigye and President Museveni were “Opio and Odong” i.e. twins (in Teso). He stated that there was no change KB would bring because both men are children of the same mant—the bush. That day, Uncle X contemplated on that statement. After casting his ballot weeks later, he told me changed his mind and decided to vote for Ambassador Otunnu. His reason was that he has historical UPC ties and thus felt that through Otunnu, they could “take back their country” to its past glory when Atutur Hospital was built! So you can imagine, a Besigye supporter attends another candidate (Hon Bidandi)’s rally and he gets convinced to vote for another candidate (Dr. Otunnu). Interesting! Isn’t it?

That’s Uganda’s voters for you!

Am waiting for his 2016 choice…

When President Museveni was a Chief Justice

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On March 10, 2015, I was one of the delegates to the 3rd National Legal Aid Conference organized by Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Justice Centres Uganda and the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET)

The Chief Guest was none other President Yoweri Museveni.

In his address, he told us of something not very often talked about. “I did Law for one year at University”. Everyone laughed. Unfortunately, he did not explain why he quit.

Later, he, among other things implored the judges to go down to the grassroots and share information with the “wanainchi” regarding the law. In his characteristic style, the President gave the discussion a Christian context.

“In the Bible, even Jesus had to come down from heaven, enter into a woman’s womb, given birth to lke all of us and then He eventually saved us”

The message was very clear; judges need to remove their wigs and robes and go down to interact with the common people to demystify the justice system for them. “If the legal system wants to help our people, it must come down just like Jesus did” he remarked.

As usual, the President shared his bush war adventures. This time, it was not how he defeated Amin and Obote, but rather when he wielded the powers of a Chief Justice by virtue of chairing the NRA’s High Command.

“At one time, I was Chief Justice also; we had one paralegal, this was Jim Muhwezi” he said as delegates, including the current Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe laughed.

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The story is that in 1982, two NRA soldiers killed  innocent civilians in Luweero after a drinking binge. When the two were arraigned before the High Command, Jim Muhwezi (he had completed a Law degree by then) attempted to apply his lawyering skills. In his defence of the accused, Muhwezi argued the accused acted under the influence of alcohol and thus were not in charge of their minds at the time they committed the offence. Museveni looked at him, then asked

“So, do you want us to arrest the alcohol?”

The rest, as they say, is history but to cut the story short, the two soldiers were ultimately executed by firing squad in view of the public.

“That was the beginning of discipline in our army” the President told the attentive delegates.

But on a serious note, I must commend the President’s team that works on his speeches. He gave a very a conceptually-reasoned address, tackling the issue of access to justice for the poor, marginalized and vulnerable groups in Uganda. He asked the judiciary to embrace technology as a way of improving their performance. He promised to ensure that Parliament passes the National Legal Aid Bill “soon” and Cabinet will also expedite the process of approving the draft National Legal Policy. He expressed support for the proposal to establish a legal aid scheme. “It will take progressive steps just like we started with UPE and later USE” he said

Demystifying the Supreme Court Decision on Bride Price

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In the afternoon today, I saw a number of Facebook posts discussing Court’s decision on the “sticky” issue of bride price. Having realized that some of them seemed to be misrepresenting the position of court by celebrating the “abolition” of bride price, I arrogated myself some powers to set the record straight.

The Supreme Court—the highest court in Uganda, has ruled that the demand for the repayment of bride price by the man’s parents or relatives from the woman’s family upon the collapse of the marriage is unlawful because it contravenes Constitutional provisions that uphold the dignity of women.
cowsHere is an illustration: Imagine your sister got married in 2015. She stays with her husband for 20 years then they disagree and she wants to return home or move on with her life. Traditionally, the man is entitled to get back the cows, goats, sheep, tomatoes, Harrier, Sofas etc that he gave to your family two decades ago. Is this practical? Will these things still be there? Would your parents have kept them for all this long anticipating that their daughter would “misbehave” in 2035 and thus keep the goodies in a safe place? Would those who received those gifts even be alive? Even if they were alive, would they be in position to refund those things?

According to the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe who was part of the judges who made that decision, “refunding bride price compromises the dignity of women contrary to Article 33 (1) of the Constitution”

I agree with him. This practice is unsustainable, especially on today’s slippery economy.

It is also important to note that the Court DID NOT outlaw the practice of demanding for bride price by the woman’s family from the man’s side as a pre-requisite of customary marriage.

This in effect means that for all intents and purposes, bride price  is still lawful and if demanded by thee woman’s family, the man has to pay.

So for most of us who have not married yet, we do not have a legal basis to avoid paying bride price. This is only possible if the woman’s family agrees to waive it.