The two MPs are out of jail but Uganda’s justice system sucks

By Musaazi Namiti

At long last, Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya and his fellow sufferer, Allan Ssewanyana, who represents Makindye West, walked out of prison after being granted bail.

They have been languishing in prison since September 2021. Their arrest and incarceration followed a spate of killings in Masaka, which the government claims was masterminded by them.

It is not clear why Mr Ssegirinya and Mr Ssewanyana, whose constituencies are in Kampala, would go all the way to Masaka to orchestrate the killings of poor peasants who have little to do with politics and almost nothing to gain apart from the fact that they do vote.

The politicians do not have political rivals in Masaka. Their rivals live in Kawempe and Makindye. The killings started when the two MPs had won their seats. If there was anything that looked like a threat to their political careers, it was not going to come from Masaka. When the killings started, the government — which has previously deployed troops to the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan — did little to stop them.

Then Mr Ssegirinya and Mr Ssewanyana were arrested in connection with the killings. Many people were surprised. Some of us thought the State knew something that ordinary folks did not know and that the suspects would be arraigned for murder — with the prosecution providing irrefutable incriminating evidence against them.
No such evidence has been adduced. For many people watching political developments in Uganda, the questions have been: If the MPs masterminded the killings, where is the evidence to convict them? What is the Judiciary and Ministry of Justice doing about their case since they cannot be freed and can’t be convicted either?

Mr Ssegirinya’s mother and his wife made a trip to the Ministry of Justice and made pleas for his release, but he remained in prison. The two women did not know they were dealing with the full extent of the failure of the justice system in Uganda. The law takes its normal course when the justice system is independent and works. In Uganda, the justice system leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, it sucks — and the people manning it will probably take a while to get over the shame of not doing what they should do.

The Judiciary and the Legislature are beholden to the Executive. The Executive is working flat out to ensure that no institution in Uganda works independently. And the fourth estate (media), an extension of the three arms of the government, is also being swallowed by the Executive.
Last week, at a symposium in Kyambogo organised for the media by the State House, Brig Charity Bainababo, the deputy commander of the Special Forces Command  told journalists: “When you meet the President, don’t ask him things that will challenge him because the President is not challenged.”

Her remarks reminded me of a former journalist I used to work with. He reported me to our boss for asking President Museveni an “embarrassing” question. Before the news conference started, the journalist walked up to me and said he wanted to be the first reporter from our newspaper to ask questions. But once the news conference started, I raised my hand and asked the President a simple question about whether his government had the capacity to provide Universal Primary Education.
There was nothing embarrassing about the question. The journalist was seeking presidential attention. He is now a senior diplomat — and I would be surprised if he challenges the President.

Mr Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
musaazihnamiti@gmail.com    @kazbuk

Source – Daily Monitor