At the start of August, 2015, a group of Ugandans filed an online petition seeking a peaceful retirement of President Yoweri Museveni.
The petitioners are led by a one Ms Jannette Mugisha, a social entrepreneur and activist for democracy and good governance.
The petitioners accuse Museveni of “fusing the state with NRM party, bribing NRM legislators with Shs 100m each to promote the sole candidature project, arrests, detention without trial, torture and kidnap of opponents, old age and personalising state institutions and national resources”.
Refer to earlier story: http://bit.ly/1EiiGlQ
They demand that the president “drops his intention for contesting for another term in the office and hand over the management of the political party NRM-O to the party organs”.
The Insider talked to the chief petitioner and here are the excerpts:
You have the minimum signatures as planned, what next?
Jannette: I am mobilizing a group of national youth to first deliver the petition to the president in person.
And when the president ignores it [the petition], what next?
Jannette: He can’t ignore it because the mandate comes from the people who entrusted him with that power. Therefore it’s premised on a constitutional right for a group of citizens to demand him to step down.
Have you asked yourself whether you are dealing with a democratic or military government?
Jannette: If we are not a democracy, why does the president and the constitution subject citizens to periodic elections?
We are refusing to be part and parcels of his ritual and statistics to legitimize dictatorship. The constitution is very explicit in the statement that power belongs to the people and the leaders are subservient to the people.
What motivated this petition?
Jannette: You may call it a reverse of achievements including; lack of free political space, unlawful conducts of security organs like the partisan police, disappearance and kidnappings of supporters of rival candidates and snubbing the much needed citizens reforms demand by the parliament.
The president has also disregarded the call to set up transitional systems to prepare the youth to gradually take over leadership but has instead promoted nepotism by fronting close family members in leadership positions.
In the 2005 referendum, Museveni restored multi-party politics to curb sectarian tensions and allow everyone compete freely. What do you mean by lack of “political space”?
Jannette: In a practicing democracies, when society is not constrained in articulating their views and organizing themselves without hindrance from the political authority using the structures state to arbitrarily control or inhibit the will of the people is what is called political space.
Those conditions are non-existent in Uganda and the government has reached to a state that it openly denies its opponents that space.
Most of what you call “disappearances” have been explained by police and individuals charged or later released.
Jannette: The prescribed ways of arresting suspects must be accompanied with arrest warrants or police summons.
Way laying a citizen who has consistently cooperated with authorities without the express knowledge of their family, next of kins and colleagues is unlawful.
It’s further compounded with denying suspects whereabouts and not producing them in courts of law after 48 hours.
As for power transition, be reminded that the president says he is grooming the youth to succeed him through patriotism clubs and youth groups, allowing the young ones like Odrek Rwabwogo to take up elective positions…
Jannette: That is what I mean by fronting close family members in leadership positions.
Is that it?
Jannette: My motivation is that under one leader for 30 years, we have failed to make meaningful and tangible political gains, our elections are still constructed around violence, harassment, intimidation, bribery. Hardly a day ends without any aspiring politician being violently arrested.
Is there someone, a politician perhaps, pushing this petition?
There is a famous statement made by former American president which goes “ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”.
In other words, I don’t need to be compelled or exploited by a politician. It’s just pure patriotism and rational thinking motivating me to contribute to my country that I owe so much.
The petition is premised on the fact that Museveni abused his office as a president. Does the evidence you provide “legally” hold in the eyes of the Ugandan judiciary?
Jannette: The constitution is very explicit in the statement that power belongs to the people and the leaders are subservient to the people.
You say the president has personalised everything yet I believe we have independent state institutions being run by leaders elected by the people as their representatives.
Jannette: The leaders first and foremost are accountable to the people, so in a given period the leaders must consult and seek our consent in matters that will presumably dismantle democracy. For example, was the Kyankwanzi resolution of the sole candidacy arrived at from a consultative efforts?
According to the Ugandan constitution, petitions to remove the president require MPs to move a motion for impeachment. Our parliament has been accused of failure to make independent decisions time and again. How are you prepared to deal with this?
Jannette: Part of our frustration is that the legislature has been fused with the state and therefore compromised the right channels of presenting the petition. Never the less, it’s an option we still have in our cards as it’s said a day in politics is a life time. The president could in a day disagree with his MPs that could open a window for us to utilize the petition.
You are aware, your petition must be signed by not less than one-third of all the members of Parliament [remember NRM has majority MPs] before being submitted to the Speaker on 1) charges of abuse of office and misconduct [with relevant documented evidence] and 2) physical or mental incapacity requires evidence from about five medical specialists. Thereafter, the speaker will avail a copy to the President and the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice then constitutes a tribunal comprising three justices of the Supreme Court to investigate the allegation. Do you realise all these are officials handpicked and appointed by the president? How will you deter their loyalty?
Jannette: I already put it clear that parliament is one of the options we have at hand, we know and understand their inadequacies but I remind you again a day in politics is a life time.
The courts and parliament are being monitored by their masters the people. The political mood in the country is that the population have opened their minds to following on what takes place in the political arena.
The judiciary is not either constituted of only cadre judges and the bench has more than the Steven Kavumas of this world.
In addition, don’t be persuaded to believe that the military is naive and can’t read the political temperatures. Remember in history our soldiers are the most educated and exposed so it’s just a matter of time they will defy the orders of a few self-centered bosses.
May I remind you, the army spokesperson made it clear that UPDF is too loyal and disciplined to defy, even the Minister of Foreign Affairs said a coup is impossible in Uganda…
Jannette: The soldiers can’t be underestimated in terms of their capacities to think rationally, that implies they have the common decency to make good judgments in circumstances that the powers that be issue orders that contradict the constitutions because we are leaving in an era that individuals are culpable for prosecutions if they execute orders that endangers many lives.
The army don’t leave in an exclusive society from the general population the same economic pinch is felt by their families, poor social services from hospitals to schools are just about what they share with us.
So this loyalty that a small section of the ruling class claim might be put into severe tests when things continue to go on a down turn
As it goes time is our greatest healer…Gaddafi and Mubarak had the full backings of the military, but when the population revolted the same military generals started defecting.
Find the full petition here: http://chn.ge/1Dugg30