Lawyers, Politicians All About Money, Power [opinion]

The very last paragraph in George Orwell’s Animal Farm has an interesting philosophical edge: “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike… The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Professor Timothy Wangusa has also told us in his poem, the XYZ of Love that after two perfect strangers have been married for long, onlookers start to say: “See how they resemble!”

In one interpretation, we can say differences between two seemingly-opposed centres become invisible once they tangle.

On October 29, Kampala lawyer David Mpanga wrote a querulous opinion piece denouncing the behaviour of Uganda’s MPs. Kicked out while appearing before the select committee on NSSF to represent its acting managing director Geraldine Ssali, Mpanga described his treatment as “parliamentary lynching,” and “abuse of constitutional rights.”

The matter arose when MPs insisted on a possible conflict of interest for being the single lawyer representing all NSSF’s trouble-ridden directors! In his droll, Mpanga speaks the language of justice and fairness, abuse of rights, and a call for civilized behaviour – all of them very problematic terms that lawyers often, uncritically, chant, for convenience.

Mpanga concludes with threats to sue, “with the attendant financial consequences being felt by the perpetrators themselves instead of added to the tab of long-suffering taxpayers.”

It is somewhat jerking that Mpanga, like the MPs, speaks the language of saving the taxpayers’ money. Indeed, he elevates himself, and, by extension, the entire judicial system, to the level of a messiah. The MPs then become the cursed wasters of public resources!

Mpanga not being the first Ugandan lawyer, one is tempted to draw that lengthy list of celebrated aocates, his forefathers in the industry, and see the good they have done to this country. Not that our politicians have done any better, but this effervescent display of sanctimoniousness on the part of lawyers is reason to worry.

Evident in history is the long love affair that lawyers and politicians enjoy – often against defenceless masses. On a discussion on how justice should be defined, Thucydides (460 BC) tells us that the g do as they wish, and the weak suffer, as they must.

In the 1700s, Adam Smith tell us on policy-making in England, that the”principal architects” of policy, the “merchants and manufacturers”, often make sure their own interests are “most peculiarly attended to” however “grievous” the effect on others.

Quite rightly, the law often stands to serve those with power (and money) – and so is our Constitution, judicial system, police, etc. Although power has compromised the Ugandan Parliament a great deal, the legislature remains a major place for secure public interest. I do not know why

Mpanga thought in an engagement of suspected misconduct, people should be as amiable as poodles wriggling around their master. Doesn’t he know that gross misconduct has ended in bloodshed in this country?

Indeed, although politicians and lawyers often play on different sides, they score in the same net: money, power, fame. Of course, we should not generalise, for there are several well-meaning counsels who would not represent a thiefmurdererdespot for the sake of money or fame.

Lawyer Mpanga would “shift uneasily in [his] seat” and ask how we would have arrived at this conclusion without due legal process. The colonial education taught us to believe that there’s only one way of confirming claims, and counsel should not be blamed.

Sadly, the more counsel made his case, the more he came off as a great combative lawyer, and a less interesting thinker and theoretician. He sounds so ahistorical, and cynically benign.

With the increasing commercialisation of everything, especially the judicial system, anyone with the biggest monies, and ger political connection, wins court cases. Counsel Mpanga knows this. He is, himself, a very dear commercialised professional, earning way beyond his labour or labour time. Why then tout his profession like it was such a godly recourse?

Finally, whether Mpanga sues and wins his impending case or doesn’t, it will be the same old script: money, fame, power. The best idea would be for Mpanga to wipe his sweat and return to his chamber, chastening himself with the thought: “I am part of this mess, and it is difficult to tell the difference between me and them.”

The author is a PhD fellow at the Makerere Institute for Social Research.

Source : The Observer

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