September 15, 2015
Just when I started writing this article, the shocking news on Saturday morning was the sudden death of Gen Aronda Nyakairima, former CDF and minister of Internal Affairs.
I knew Gen Aronda from the 7th Parliament. We worked together building the local militia that protected my Agago County constituents against cattle rustlers. Gen Aronda was a fine officer and a gentleman who acted above board. I held him in very high esteem. I can only express my deep sorrow at his untimely demise, and pray to God to give strength to and protect his young family.
The death of Gen Aronda compounded a shock I suffered last Friday, when I went to the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) on a courtesy call. I found that the terms of all commissioners had expired in April and the Commission was solely in the hands of its secretary. We all know the great role UHRC has played in areas of human rights, governance and accountability, and in addressing grievances of ordinary Ugandans and guiding and checking human rights excesses of errant security agents.
From its inception, the Commission has done the country proud, and has been a sterling example of how a State institution doing its work properly can serve the interest of all Ugandans and gain respect and support.
In fact, UHRC has twice been recognised worldwide as an outstanding commission by the International Coordinating Committee – the world body that coordinates, monitors and ranks human rights commissions under the Paris Protocol. UHRC has also been voted the best and most exemplary national human rights body in Africa by the African Human Rights Commission.
What more do we need to recognise the full functioning of this valuable and exemplary institution? More importantly, ordinary Ugandans who have come to depend on UHRC to resolve their disputes outside courts are now helpless.
Now, the country is also entering a period of electioneering, with its potential volatility typified by formation of forces of violence by Maj Kakooza Mutale and counter forces by Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and group. In this environment, no State institution is better placed to intervene, exercise neutrality, and command the respect of all sides than UHRC.
Besides, by law, the Commission is mandated to carry out civic education and extensive human rights sensitisation and monitoring, and to receive, investigate and address rights abuses so as to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections. This work is only possible with commissioners in place.
Without them, what role do we envisage for UHRC in the 2016 elections? What explanations will we give if things go wrong because an organ that could have helped had not been constituted?
The responsibility to appoint UHRC commissioners lies with President Museveni whom we trust to act in the best interest of the country. Delaying appointment of the commissioners will be a deeply regrettable omission on his part.
To remind the President to expedite appointment of UHRC commissioners is not to question the authority bestowed upon him by our Constitution. No. It is merely an act of caring and responsible citizenship. Besides, the urgency is there.
Even if the President nominates commissioners now, Parliament will still require time to vet them. The President too will take time to receive Parliament’s decision and issue instruments of appointment before the commissioners assume offices.
Upon assuming offices, commissioners too will require time to settle down, by which time the 2016 elections will have been over with all its attendant human rights consequences but without an impartial constitutional body to calmly deal with the explosive consequences.
Mr President, consider urgently reconstituting the UHRC for the good of our country and to honour the memory of Gen Aronda Nyakairima.
Prof Latigo is former Leader of Opposition, 8th Parliament. firstname.lastname@example.org