We have witnessed goons terrorising folks on Kampala streets. Now, some overzealous leaders upcountry think they can make flagrant flogging of citizens a new, innovative way of their modus operandi. An absolute contemptible chicken shit move.
In Gulu district, the LC V Chairman Martin Ojara Mapenduzi recently took it upon himself to beat up people he accused of ‘stubbornly’ engaging in deforestation for charcoal production.
In a television interview, Mapenduzi claimed local government leaders need to ‘stop lamenting’ and do what he described as ‘step forward… and walk the talk’. He makes no mention of the criminal justice system. And he certainly does not regret his actions.
In Sironko district, the Resident District Commissioner, Moses Wamoto was also recently captured on video whipping people he accused of engaging in early drinking and ‘watching movies in the morning’.
These two leaders join Lwengo district LC V Chairman George Mutabazi who took it upon himself to whip people to enforce his orders. Among many chilling incidents, he once attacked a pregnant woman, beat her up in public, damaging her property in the process. Her crime? Opening up her local bar during working hours.
The power such men have over women, the poor, the weak, the illiterate. Sickening.
I do not condone deforestation and neither do I encourage folks to drink away during their most productive time of the day.
But I, and indeed we, cannot and should not remain silent in the face of this impunity. Our Constitution is clear. When one is suspected to have committed a crime, he or she should be arrested and charged. Not declared guilty and flogged. Only a duly constituted court of law with jurisdiction has power to find one guilty as charged after a fair trial.
And there are very noble reasons for this. It not only upholds the doctrine of presumption of innocence – a cornerstone of our criminal justice system – but also emphasises rule of law.
Let’s take for instance; many local leaders are suspects of numerous incidents of abuse of office. Health workers have been accused of stealing drugs. The evidence is all out there. Should citizens raid their offices and hospitals to flog them? I can assure you we are as equally, if not even more, irritated by the shenanigans going on in most public offices. But we seat back and allow the law take its course.
In the landmark case of Kyamanywa Simon versus Uganda (Constitutional Reference No. 10 of 2000), the Constitutional Court ruled that corporal punishment is cruel, inhuman and degrading. It is degrading in that it strips the human being of his or her dignity.
The effect of this ruling is it effectively prohibits any act of subjecting someone to corporal punishment. To do so is to derogate a right expressly protected as non-derogable under Article 44 of the Constitution. No argument can legitimise the action. An ordinance or bylaw cannot contravene this position. It’s as simple as that.
We cannot afford to let Mapenduzi and leaders of his ilk whip people away with impunity. We cannot afford to loose the war against corporal punishment.
Our leaders must be at the forefront of championing more justice, more dignity, more equality, more freedom, and observance of rule of law. Bring perpetrators to justice while upholding human rights.
Polly Namaye, Police Deputy Spokesperson assured the public that “an investigation is on and we (police) will be able to come out about it”. We hope decisive action is taken.
Otherwise, as one of the folks interviewed about the incidents of flogging people said, “Come and talk to me and if i have seen that what am doing is wrong, then, i will accept the charges. But from no where you come and cane me? Trust me, i touch you back with blows men!”
When our leaders stray and take the law in their own hands in abuse of the power they wield, we must use the law to whip them back in line before the flogging becomes an organised crime. No man is above the law of the land.