When President Museveni first proposed the scrapping of Bail for specific categories of people, I thought it was one of the usual political jokes that he throws around to crack people up during his long speeches. Little did I know that his move was real and would raise such extraordinary national dust as has been witnessed in the past couple of months.
Nevertheless, in the event that the President continues to passionately push for the passing of this ironic Bill, we will need to thoroughly debate the definitional issues embedded in some of the concepts that the Bill carries. My personal views would be, while defining economic saboteurs, the Bill should broaden its definition to also focus on individuals who are suspects of committing economic crimes of omission. The Bill should provide for no Bail for public office holders who demonstrate reluctance in responding to serious public economic questions. Actually, I think as a country, we would require a corresponding law under which any public officer who makes cynical statements in response to key national economic issues should be arrested and not granted Bail. In my view, cynical statements would then include both satirical verbal and action-oriented gestures – failure to keep government spending under reasonable and agreeable check, loathing about building up rainy-day reserves, plunging currencies, failure to intervene in controlling run-away inflation, as well as apathetic public officials’ reaction to economic issues.
This corresponding new law would also tackle issues of moral turpitude. This should be watertight to provide for no Bail to public official suspects of acts of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private, social and public duties.
Nonetheless, reverting to the President’s proposal to scrap Bail, my personal thinking is that this Bill is being brought in the spirit of hoodwinking Ugandans from the host of unresolved issues of national concern. The spiraling poverty, unemployment, and inflation levels; the receding aggregate demand; weakening external demand for Uganda’s exports; the diminishing levels of local commodity production; the despicable misuse of public resources; the progressive disregard of the citizen’ voices, all put Uganda at a brink of governance collapse.
Introducing the proposal to deny Bail to ‘economic saboteurs’ and rioters at this particular moment also confirms government’s mastery of the ancient law of political diversion. At a time when there is unprecedented public outcry over the harsh economic conditions, the last thing on a responsible government’s mind would be introducing laws that further muzzle the voices of the victims of the situation. Although pitched as a measure to rid ‘bad’ elements from society, it is actually a thinly veiled plan to detain those who try to speak on the visible deteriorating economic and governance situation.
Judging from the impromptu introduction of this Bill, I am really tempted to think that the present administration has always been using this tactic to save itself from embarrassing exposures that would uncover suspicious and specious behavior and most probably even crimes of commission and omission.
It is definite that the seemingly alien law of political diversion is at work in Uganda. This also ‘validates’ why some so-called government representatives have continued, without remorse, to perpetuate mendacity upon their very own citizenry. During such times, citizens need to beware of shrewd political tricks to hide the negative consequences of the crisis in the country.
Today, it looks like the state has completely taken over the role of a social regulator of conflicts and its judgments are dependent on ‘context’ and perspective, garnished with power dynamics. With such increasingly limited elbow room for the ordinary citizen to be heard on public matters, it is time for citizens to talk and act to revoke any proposed bad laws or government actions.