By Naturinda Eliab
On January 23, General Aronda Nyakairima-Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces, while addressing a press conference at the Army Headquarters, Mbuya, re-echoed the sentiments of Hon Kiyonga and President Museveni that had been previously said about a possible military takeover in order to re-direct the country.
In particular, Aronda said “stand advised that should you not change course, other things will take place. Let no one return us to the past. We experienced a quarter century of turmoil and we cannot afford to take the country back”
The background of these opinions (which are actually welcome since this is a democratic society where people even oppose a president’s opinion) was in regard to the continuous cheap politics that have been ushered in our most cherished Parliament at the expense of tax payers’ money.
And recalling that the President has a mandate to guide and inform Ugandans, where need be about what is going on in a country, he revealed to NRM MPs that were on a retreat at NALI, Kyakwazi, about his opinion. Unfortunately, when the media reported, indeed it was sad that the President had motives of another 1971 event in the history of Uganda at a time when governance and peace are vital and evident even something that can be affirmed by our patriotic opposition leaders and this has now been consumed by innocent citizens, me inclusive.
So one would ask, why would the media make Ugandans read misguided information? Whether their mission has been fulfilled or not, it is a question I leave to all of us.
Be that as it may, In my proper wisdom, I beg to first allude to the 1995 Constitution and other enabling laws in order to give life and breath to my ideologies, whether valid or not, but of which I think they are relevant in order to gauge the legality of the army officers opinions but most importantly, to also ask ourselves whether a mere guidance should make people like MP Mariam Nalubenga file treason charges against the General.
In the preamble of the Constitution, it enshrines that COMMITTED to building a better future by establishing a socioeconomic and political order…based on the principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress.
Objective iii (i) of NODPSP state that all organs of the state and people of Uganda shall work towards the promotion of national unity, peace and stability. Article 38 (1) affirms that every Uganda citizen has the right to participate in the affairs of government, individually or through his or her representatives in accordance with the law and of course the golden celebrated Article 208 (2) that says UPDF shall be …national in character, patriotic, professional, disciplined, productive and subordinate to the civilian authority…. Section 7 (a) and (b) of UPDF Act, stipulate that the Defence Forces are to preserve and defend the sovereignty and interior integrity of Uganda and to foster harmony and understanding between the defence forces and civilians.
The correct mischief of the above laws, if analysed well is that, first, the preamble of the Constitution, shows that UPDF is a state agent and, therefore, has the mandate of promoting unity, peace and stability and this can only be done through democratic means of engaging with the civilians, where guidance deems fit and this is precisely what General Aronda did only to be exaggerated by irresponsible media that has caused fear among Ugandans for nothing.
I must also reckon that UPDF is also composed of men and women who are bestowed with positions just like any other government institution and in their exercise of duties; they are mandated to participate in governance of this country as embedded in Article 38.
More so, Section 23, (1),(c) of Penal Code Act, Cap 120 states “any person who…contrives any plot, act or matter and expresses or declares such plot, act or matter by any utterance or by any overt act in order, by force of arms, to overturn the Government as by law established”.
The spirit behind this provision and in proper construction of views being expressed by the public seem to be misguided because Aronda simply said “stand advised…” which had no mere ill act of over throwing a legitimate government. In any case and as far as my research is able to reveal like in developing countries, the media should have been quick enough to apologise to the entire nation by rectifying the anomalies that were printed.
Therefore, much as the army is subordinate to the civilians, it must defend and guide the nation as a Constitutional right of restoring political order as the Constitution guarantees.
I must applaud the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution for having thought about this initiative. Hence for progress to be achieved and most importantly democracy and social justice, the army and other state agents have a stake not to sit and wait for disaster to happen but to simply re-direct the country in order to achieve political order both in the three arms of the government.
In conclusion, I wish to categorically state that President Museveni, Minister Kiyonga and General Aronda were invoking their Constitutional mandates like any other Ugandan and in any case, no army in any country would allow opportunists to rule since this would jeopardise the already given good governance structures in place and the public should remain calm rather than relying on media speculations about an impossible coup in the 21st century.
The Writer is a Lawyer and Works with EN Legal Consultants