Uganda Today: Usurpation of independence of the Judiciary and Parliament
President Yoweri Museveni has been criticized for various instances of alleged power usurpation in Uganda. Some incidents have raised concerns about the independence of the judiciary and the parliament.
- 2017 Constitutional Amendment: In 2017, the Ugandan Parliament passed a constitutional amendment to remove the presidential age limit, allowing President Museveni to run for office again in 2021 presidential elections which would have excluded him as per the constitutional clause limiting anybody above 75 years to stand for presidency. The move was seen by many as an attempt by Museveni to extend his rule, as he had already been in power for several decades. Recently without conferring with parliament, the President undermined its independence when he ordered the reinstatement of the permanent secretary under ministry of trade as the accounting officer of the ministry, yet Parliament had interrogated her and found her culpable in instances of misappropriation of public funds under her docket thus directing ministry of finance to remove her from that position.
Video of Sarah Birete Urging Parliament to desist from acting in ultra vires and negligent manner while executing their oversight role
- Interference in the Judiciary: There have been allegations of political interference in the Ugandan judiciary, with critics claiming that the government, including President Museveni, has attempted to influence judicial decisions. This has led to concerns about the independence of the judiciary and its ability to operate without political interference. For instance, his pronouncement to the effect that he vetoed the powers of the judiciary when he said “when a judge gives an order of land eviction, his Resident District Commissioner of the area has to look into it”. In essence this implied that the RDC automatically usurps powers to veto a court order!
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, his fiercest rival for the presidential seat ever since he assumed power in 1986, was forced to withdraw his presidential case against president Museveni citing the president’s meddling in the case with intermittent uncalled for meetings with the Chief Justice during the time of filing the case. Since 2001, the president has vehemently defied orders of court to institute constitutional and electoral reforms aimed at streamlining democratic governance where the powers of appointing the judges, electoral commission chairman, the entire electoral commission members, the inspector general of police and the ombudsman among others are stripped off the president’s jurisdiction.
- Arrests of Opposition Figures: There have been instances where opposition figures and activists critical of the government, including members of parliament, have been arrested and detained. Critics argue that these actions are part of a broader strategy to suppress dissent and consolidate power. Despite opposition members of parliament who have currently boycotted parliamentary sittings purposely to demand government’s accountability of citizens arrested and detained without trial, the influence of the president has not deterred the majority ruling government party members to continue with parliamentary business unabated
- Limiting Freedom of Speech: The Museveni government has been accused of restricting freedom of speech and press freedom through various measures, including the passing of laws that curtail the activities of the media and limit the expression of dissenting views. Such restrictions undermine the ability of the parliament and the judiciary to operate independently.
These instances have led to criticism from both domestic and international observers, who have expressed concerns about the state of democracy and governance in Uganda