Uganda’s president, who for the last 36 years now, has been at the helm of managing the affairs of the land locked East African country affairs, barely a year in office after his 6th contested re election is determined to expunge the right to apply for bail for any suspected criminal offenders from the penal code in the country.
Despite the hue and cry condemning voices from majority stakeholders, the president is hell bent to actualising his intention which has been objected to, by not only his party members of parliament but also citizens and civil society organisations. These have argued that the law just like many others like the Public Order Management Act that was repealed recently, is meant to victimise opposition members who have severally been framed of committing capital offences ranging from, but not limited to rape (for 4 time contender for presidency Dr. Kifefe Besigye), treason for Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert whose charges were unconditionally withdrawn after arraigning him in the country’s court martial on allegations that he was found with fire ammunition in a hotel in Arua.
Historic records show that the late two time president of Uganda Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, orchestrated a sinister plan to make parliament enact a law that would ensure that any suspected capital offender should be “detained without trial” . When he fell out with his trio minister led by Grace Ibingira, the very law that was touted by him and his cabinet, caught up with them when Obote sent them to Luzira the country’s maximum prison for a framed suspected treason case.!
Uganda’s president for unknown reasons, in 2020 just as he was preparing to contest in the most violent charade of an election in the history of the country in January 2021, swore a deed poll where he added Tibuhaburwa to his names. His new name according to the local dialects from Western Uganda, means “he who doesn’t take advise”. President Tibuhaburwa has stuck to his gun evoking the maxim of “an eye for an eye” completely ignoring the penal code clause that that succinctly upholds the tenets of presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a competent court.
Currently two opposition members of parliament Muhamad Ssegirinya representing Kawempe North Constituency and Allan Ssewanyana of Makindye West are in prison after violently getting re arrested by security personnel immediately after securing release on bail on suspected murder charges. Close to 30 people mostly the elderly were murdered in the enclave of Masaka a central part of the country where president Tibuhaburwa was devastatingly and all his ministers including his vice president were voted out of office in the country’s 2021 general elections. The two members of parliament are charged of murders of Masaka people. There’s a seemingly general notion that each region of the country that overwhelmingly votes out president Tibuhaburwa in each election, suffers from different elections aftermath repercussions that under all circumstances include unexplained murders. Northern Uganda, and Kasese regions are prominent examples. Indeed one of the country’s cabinet minister revealed that “Masaka people were secure and safe until they decided to vote opposition” . He in the most absurd manner, mocked the people that ” the opposition members of parliament whom the victims voted, should protect the people” This outrageous outburst completely abdicating the government’s onus of protecting citizens and their property, should have had a resultant effect of the ministers outright sacking or parliament impeachment, but nothing of the sort has happened yet opposition members and a number of their supporters are being held culpable for these murders.
Country’s Cabinet Considers President’s Notion To Remove Application Of Bail For Suspected Capital Offenders
The Country’s cabinet whose chairperson is the president himself, recently approved the president’s idea despite the fact that the country’s ruling party parliament members rejected the proposal from the overbearing president. Members argued that the law is so repugnant with presumption of innocence until proven guilty. They rightly argued that the law may sooner than later catch up with them.
The Executive is considering a number of reforms, these will include amendments to the Constitution and the Police Act, to tie the hands of judicial officers in exercising their discretion to grant or deny bail.
In the proposals prepared for Cabinet consideration, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka proposes that Article 23(6) (b) of the Constitution be amended to provide that a person accused of committing a criminal offence presented by both the High Court and subordinate courts, shall not be granted bail until after 180 days or trial commencement, or when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinues proceedings, whichever is earlier.
He also proposes changes to Article 23(4) (b) and Section 25 of the Police Act, both of which require a suspect to be released on police bond if not charged in court within 48 hours, to qualify the period as “forty-eight business hours”.
Additionally, the chief government legal adviser, borrowing from Section 148 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Act of Tanzania, proposes that Uganda’s current Constitution, enacted in 1995 and amended in 2005 and 2017, be altered to give the DPP powers to issue “a certificate of objection to bail” if the accused person is likely to prejudice the safety or interest of the country.
In the problem statement, the Attorney General argues in the memo that bail ideally should balance the interests of the accused, public interest in regard to peace and safety as well as the right of victims of crime.
Many Ugandans including legal scholars and practitioners, led by former Attorney General and retired Supreme Court Judge Justice George Kanyeihamba, who chaired the Legal and Drafting Committee during 1993 to 1995 Constituent Assembly, which promulgated Uganda’s current supreme law, have warned that the President is treading a dangerous path because bail is a settled matter in law.
Article 23 (6) of the Constitution provides that a “person arrested in respect of a criminal offence is entitled to apply to the court to be released on bail and the court may grant that person bail on such conditions as the court considers reasonable”
President Tibuhaburwa, however, deems the provision as the supreme law providing automatic right to suspects to be granted bail.
limited or no stringent conditions.”
To stem the alleged vice, the government’s chief legal advisor now wants “substantial surety” to be expressly
Right to bail
The right to apply for bail is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution which says where a person is arrested in respect of a criminal offence, that person is entitled to apply to the court to be released on bail, and the court may grant that person bail on such conditions as the court considers reasonable;
Its basis is found in Article 28 of the same Constitution which states that an accused person is to be presumed innocent until he/she is proved or he/she pleads guilty.
Section 25 (1) of the Police Act provides that a person arrested by the police officer shall be produced before a Magistrates Court within 48 hours unless earlier released on bond. If this provision is not complied with, the magistrate, within 24 hours, shall order the release of such persons unless charged and where torture is alleged, under Section 4, the magistrate shall order an investigation into the allegation and if the allegation is proved to be true, the magistrate shall order for the examination and treatment of the suspect at the expense of the State and any person responsible for torture, shall be charged.