Will the Election Petition rescue the will of the People and Democracy in Uganda?

democracy and people power

In one of the more vigorous conversion, King Lear told the blind Gloucester, ‘A man may see how this world goes with no eyes,’

He also told Gloucester how to ‘look with thine ears’. ‘See how yond justice rails upon yond thief.

Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy – dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?

Thou has seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?’ changing places or position is one-way to ‘see’ hidden things in Uganda, which is the general point that Lear makes here, in addition to of course to drawing Gloucester’s attention,

In a politically subversive statement, to the remarkable fact that in the farmers dog he ‘mightst behold the image of authority’.

The seven judges presiding over this election petition need to transcend the limitation of their positional perspectives. As, it is important in moral and political decisions, and in jurisprudence.

Liberation from positional sequestering may be difficult, but it is a challenge these ethical, political and legal thinkers have to consider adopting during this petition.

These Judges have to go beyond ‘yond justice’ that freely rails upon ‘yond simple thief’.

The questions of one’s duty to one’s neighbours has huge place in this election petition.

Indeed, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer includes the following unambiguous answer to the question,

‘What dost thou chiefly learn by these commandments?; ‘I Learn two things: my duty towards God, and my duty to my neighbor.’

If this understanding of our obligation is right and the claims of our neighbours are stronger than those of others, the seven judges must know that even the petitioners are their neighbours.

Is it not possible to think that this awareness would enable the judges to smooth the roughness of justice in Uganda?

No less importantly, in the 2001 and 2006 judges ruling, there were some elements of deep fragility in thinking of the judges in terms of fixed communities of neighbours.

Let me try to connect fixed communities of neighbours to the Good Samaritan story.

Jesus of Nazareth illustrates the last point with a compelling clarity in his recounting of the story of ‘the good Samaritan’ in the gospel of Luke.

Jesus’s questioning of fixed neighborhoods has sometimes been ignored in seeing the Good Samaritan story as a moral for universal concern,

Which is also fair enough, but the main point to us in the story as told by Jesus is reasoned rejection of the idea of a fixed neighbourhood.

Accepting fixed neighbourhood would mean, the Judges siding with NRM (their appointing authority) instead of being impartial.

I return to the Good Samaritan story. At this point in Luke, Jesus is arguing with a lawyer about the limited conception of those to whom we owe some duty.

Jesus tells the lawyer the story of the wounded man lying on one side of the street who was eventually helped by the Good Samaritan, an event that was preceded by the refusal of a priest and a Levite to do anything for him.

Jesus does not, on this occasion, directly discuss the duty to help others (e.g. Judges taking helping Ugandans whose will has been severely hijacked in the recent presidential elections).

But rather raises a classificatory question regarding the definition of one’s neighbor.

He asked the lawyer with whom he was arguing: if the wounded man reflects on what has happened, whom would he consider to be his neighbor? The lawyer cannot avoid answering, ‘The man who helped him’.

And that was exactly Jesus point. The duty to ours neighbours is not confined only to those who appoint these Judges or those who live next door.

Therefore, neighbourhood that is constructed by our relations with our immediate neighbours and those we may consider as distant people (including, those in opposition) is something that has pervasive relevance to the understanding justice in Uganda.

In this election petition, the first duty of the judges should be to rescue the will of the people, democracy and the image of Uganda, nationally, regionally and internationally.

A great many denizens have unanimously maintained a conspiracy of silence, for some, one ruling of truth will sound like a pistol shot!

Walter Ochanda, the author is an International Development Specialist.


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