Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Is Uganda on a steady road to a police state?
There’s been a lot of talk on the key laws that Parliament passed or considered to pass prior to the 2011 general elections. Taking stock of the laws passed or brought before Parliament during the aforesaid period, you will discover that most of them reflect a deep distrust in the inherent fundamental freedoms and liberties of the people.
Laws including: The NGO Registration (Amendment) Act 2006; The Access to Information Regulations 2007; The Proposed Public Order Management Bill 2009; The Press and Journalist Amendment Bill 2010; Regulation of Interception of Communications Act 2010; and The Institution of the Traditional and Cultural Leaders’ Bill 2010, are seemingly an attempt to purge critical voices. Not all the new laws are bad but their lack of efficacy seems to be very apparent.
Demonstrated by the clamp-down on Ugandans who were walking to their places of work in Kampala, one would be right to conclude that those with dissenting views or those who lie on the opposing side of the political divide are subject to extraordinarily high rates of surveillance and arrests than never before. This means our country is living under a level of surveillance that can only be characterised as a police state. Unfortunately, in this burgeoning police state, who does and doesn’t receive justice, is determined by the ‘big man’ and his underlings.
Whereas what is happening is a good learning experience to inform how we gradually define our democracy, the government ought to steer clear of elements of actions or inactions that prepone extreme domestic surveillance of its own citizens. We don’t want to be trapped in a situation similar to that of the Nazi Germany or worse still, regress to the subjugation that came along with some of the post-independence regimes in Uganda. In Nazi Germany, the police were allowed to arrest people on suspicion that they were about to do wrong. All local police units had to draw up a list of people in their locality who might be suspected of being “Enemies of the State”. This Police had the power to do as it liked. Continued