Uganda: To walk or not to walk?

13 Apr

By Daniel Ruhweza

Daniel Ruhweza: May he walk?

The news that the Uganda police force arrested opposition leaders who had chosen to walk into the capital city from their various homes in and around Kampala has permeated through various media fora. For some of the ‘walkers’, the reason was to ‘stand in solidarity with those Ugandans who have to do this each day’ for others, it was ‘in demonstration against the current increase in food prices’. police and some media houses have however expressed a different view, simply that the increase in the cost of living is no fault of the government of Uganda, so in essence, the wrong party is being blamed here. In any case, ‘Uganda “is not a welfare state that is obliged to look after every hungry person”.

Thus, we have had a stalemate between those who insisted on having a right to walk and the police who insisted that they can lawfully prevent that ‘right to walk!?!. Ofcourse, the one with means of coercion always ‘wins’ the battle. Pictures and clips on various televisions show how these opposition leaders were picked up – some literally and others metaphorically – and charged with offences ranging from inciting violence to blocking traffic. Many of the accused are used to the court system now, having been either arrested before or even charged before the courts of law. For the police, it is a job well done and ‘everyone can go back home happy’. Another attempt to ”cause unrest and topple a legitimate government elected by the people” has been foiled. For the State prosecutors however, it is another lot of ‘problematic cases’. It will be hard to prove – beyond reasonable doubt – that when a Ugandan, in light of the current economic situation in the country, chooses to walk to work, the only logical inferrence is that such person intends to ‘incite violence and topple the government.’

For the rest of us outside the courtrooms, the questions remain- whose responsibility is it to ensure that the country has affordable prices for goods and transport? Who may or may not walk to work? Most crucially though, when will the right to demonstrate, as is expected in a ‘free and democratic society’ – and guaranteed by the Constitution -be deemed legal?

Arrested for choosing to walk

Lastly, one of the accused is quoted as having said this in his plea, ”If walking is an offence then am guilty and if condemning extravagancy exercised by our leaders is an offence then I should be charged. l am here because I am standing with millions who are sick and tired of enforced misery.” Those words have caused me to remember other words – those of Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous ”letter from a Birmingham Jail”,.. ‘I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

I rest my case – for now.

Posted By Passions, Thoughts, Sights… to Sights and Sighs…


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