Uganda’s deceptive weather has a way of playing on the sensitivities of even the ‘most-informed’, or so we think. Over the last four weeks Joel Kamadhi has been pitching camp in his village Itakaibolu, ostensibly to harness nature and plant his crops during the rainy season. It did not rain as he expected but all the same his stay in the village has put to a halt to his plans of issuing a ‘statement of intent’ to Gaudensia Mbaroraburora, announced to the members three weeks ago by Chairman Bonnabagaga Akalyamaggwa.
But Kamadhi is not crestfallen; his now-stalled plans ‘do not make news’ like his ‘three top stories I want to share with members’ including that of Makerere University researcher, now famous for calling the First Family all sorts of names; the arrest and subsequent firing of labour junior minister for allegedly soliciting a Shs30 million bribe from an ‘investor’, the Chairman of Aya Group who also ‘owns’ the Hilton Hotel on Nakasero Hill and, last but not least, the announcement by Uganda Communications Commission boss to the effect that all mobile phone users in the country must have re-registered their SIM cards in only seven days, a development economists say will affect business transactions of over 7 billion Shillings over the one week.
“Madam Counsel, can you furnish this honourable congregation with the position of the law in as far as the Researcher’s arrest and remand to Luzira for ‘computer misuse’ charges is concerned,” Kamadhi started off the discussion, expressing himself in ‘tough’ vocabulary almost akin to that used by a retired anti-corruption court Judge while sentencing former presidential aide, a former Director of Economic Affairs in the President’s Office, to a prison term of 10 years for embezzling funds meant to assist those with HIV/Aids.
Carefully selecting her words, Lawyer Rebecca Kagada said that given the profile of those ‘insulted’ the matter was a ‘precedent’ and that she was also keen on seeing how their Lordships would handle it.
“You see some cunning lawyer may ask who the complainant is and this will complicate the whole case and possibly throw it in jeopardy,” lawyer Rebecca K said. She however, wondered why the magistrate did not grant bail to the Researcher, or even then, given her a shorter remand period.
“She (Researcher) is not a ‘flight risk’; they stopped her from travelling to The Netherlands and she stayed; I think given her status she deserved bail,” lawyer Rebecca K said, adding however, that judicial officers like magistrates and judges have the power of discretion.
Don’t you people remember the Judge who made a ruling against Parliament? If my namesake had not been a good lawyer herself, that Judge would have succeeded in muzzling another independent arm of government; he had missed the ‘separation of powers’ doctrine, a cardinal concept in any functional democracy,” Lawyer Rebecca K ‘educated’ the members.
Then, as if on cue, Chairman Bonnabagaga Akalyamaggwa reminded the members that just four months ago, at the annual group ritual of naming ‘Employee of the Year’, the Judge in question was overall winner of the accolade.
The Chairman was interjected by Hitler Eregu, who drew the attention of the group, telling them that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had advertised the said Judge’s job, alongside those of 22 other colleagues.
“I don’t know how far he has gone with the attempts at changing his age, but like his former boss the Chief Justice, he can still survive for another two years if the appointing authority is still interested in having him there,” Eregu said and drew the members to ‘issues of law and justice’.
“Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen, what do you make of the arrest, detention in the Nalufenya facility for hardcore criminals and subsequent sacking of Minister Kabafunzaki for allegedly soliciting a bribe”? Personally I think the issue was not handled fairly; the arresting officers should also have arrested that ‘investor’ of Aya Group because we are reminded almost every day by anti-corruption crusaders that it takes two to tango; the giver of a bribe and the one who solicited for it are equally culpable,” Eregu, the former Teso rebel-turned-government supporter said.
“I think I am right to say that ‘justice should be done and seen to be done,’” Eregu added while taking a peek at lawyer Rebecca K, who in turn nodded in affirmation, and said the Minister should have been accorded a ‘fair hearing’.
However, both Eregu and lawyer Rebecca K cast doubt on the discretion of the magistrate who heard the Researcher’s case, arguing that he must have been scared to the marrow.
“You see the Researcher was sent to Luzira for a full two weeks while the labour minister was given bail after just a day in prison,” they said in unison, adding: “It will be interesting to see how her case will progress given that she even gave court part of her dose of obscenity.”
“That lady is indefatigable in her pursuits; the magistrate might even be forced to flee the courtroom or hear the case in camera,” Eregu said.
The discussion between Eregu and Lawyer Rebecca K seemed to have jolted ‘Insect Professor’ Maurice Ladit Ogeng, who noted that another government top honcho would soon face the wrath of Ugandans for coming out to declare that all phone users must have the SIM cards re-registered, with the owners presenting National ID cards for identification.
“Does that gentleman know that almost half of the population does not have National IDs,” Professor Ogeng wondered. He added: “And any way, does he know that that exercise cannot be carried out in only a week?”
“To understand how complex the issue is he should go and liaise with other officials who have carried out mass registration before like the Electoral Commission and National ID project, that way he will be able to steer the SIM card registration process with fewer glitches,” Professor Ogeng said.
At that point the Chairman called the group to order and announced that the group was organizing an Easter Party and that every member had to contribute Shs20.000.
“We are going to buy two goats for mchomo; beers will flow and thereafter there will be a dance so Kamadhi and Professor should bring their best leg forward,” the Chairman said.
In response, Kamadhi who had all along been quiet said he was going to pay for two people: Gaudensia Mbaroraburora and himself.
“Professor, you also prove that you are a man, pay for lawyer Rebecca K,” Kamadhi added.
But before Kamadhi could complete his sentence, Prof. Ogeng pulled out his wallet and produced a Shs.50, 000 note.
“In politics I am for change but on this one ‘no change’ Prof. Ogeng declared as the Chairman pushed the note further into the ‘savings book’.
Then, like ants filing out of an anthill, the rest of the members also followed suit, raising a whopping Shs860.000.
“Let’s buy three goats instead,” Yorokamu Bwambale, who had not spoken a word the whole evening, chipped in to applause.
“Our man; our man,” the group members chanted, forcing to Chairman to make a new announcement: three goats!
He immediately adjourned the sitting and the group now awaits D-Day.