The passage of the Public Order Management Bill by the ninth parliament has killed the hitherto remaining semblance of constitutionalism and democracy that in Uganda. I have watched on Television and read in papers Uganda’s premier John Patrick Amama Mbabazi call opposition MPs who openly decried the passage of the bill as wild beasts who should have known that in a democracy, the majority takes the lead. I am now fully convinced that our rulers (read misrulers) either don’t understand what democracy means or deliberately want to dupe us that democracy means mob rule. It doesn’t call for an expert in political science to comprehend that while democracy entails majority rule, minority interests and rights cannot be overridden.
We never gave MPs a licence to gag us and deprive us of our God-given rights. We voted them to be a voice of the voiceless not to use and misuse the law to suppress dissent. We voted Members of Parliament to uphold the constitution and not to abuse it. We never voted MPs to legalise dictatorship. With the passage of the public order management bill, we now have parliamentary mobocracy, dictatorship, oppression, repression and suppression made legal!
We cannot for heaven’s sake obey a law that empowers the partisan police to grant or deny permission to anyone intending to hold a meeting to discuss issues of public concern. The law will inevitably burry the opposition political parties and critical civil society organizations. It will bury all our constitutional and God-given rights. I have often implored Ugandans of goodwill to read Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to understand what he says about just and unjust laws.
With this law in place, even people in taxis fear talking politics, people from my home area Bitereko and Kanyabwanga cannot complain about absence of drugs in their health centre IIIs, unemployed graduates will not air their grievances, the police officers’ wives will not protest the wretched conditions they, their husbands and children are subjected to; security guards whose money is deducted but never remitted to NSSF will never organize to raise these issues; I will not be allowed to host Norbert Mao for my function in Ruhinda; teachers, medical workers and university lecturers will not sit to demand a pay raise; traders will not talk about tax injustice but most importantly all of us will be disenfranchised. Clearly, this one is a law that we must all defy. Personally, I am ready to die in jail than live in a society where I am legally (of course not legitimately) deprived of all my rights, all my liberties and all my freedoms.
I am not ready to live in a country that dehumanizes me. I am not ready to live in a country where I depend on someone’s discretion to exercise or not to exercise my rights. Even if the penalty for defiance of such a law was death, I would gladly accept it. And I must state that I will plead guilty if I am charged with contravention of the soon to be Public Order Management Act. I am not ready to live in Uganda as a subject for I know I am a citizen.
I am currently organizing protests over several issues and I must confess for selfish reasons. These include but are not limited to; the sick healthcare system that can’t cure my ailing mother; exorbitant fees in private universities which in 2009 were hiked by 126 percent leading to my relatives dropping out of school; the miserable pay and wretched living conditions to which my paternal uncle is subjected to; the huge sums of money for VIP treatment which renders me less human; the employment of mediocre “graduates” in public bodies that have rendered us redundant and a parliament that passes obnoxious and poisonous laws. I would expect my area MP to show cause why we should continue paying him. I will be glad if all of us selfishly opposed injustice since selflessness no longer makes sense to the majority. The sum total of selfish opposition to injustice is the highest level of patriotism.
The writer is a human rights defender