Steadily over the years, retired Justice George Kanyeihamba has been known for his bluntly expressed opinions, more so, about the NRM government.
In a revealing interview with Deo Walusimbi, Justice Kanyeihamba reflects on the omissions and commissions of the central government that have triggered a deep and abiding sense of disappointment among ordinary Ugandans.
The law professor says most of the army generals who have served under President Museveni are now tormented by regret, after the president abandoned the ideals for which they fought previous governments. In an ideal world, Kanyeihamba says, President Museveni would already have been impeached, given the mistakes he has made.
Below are excerpts:
There is a rift now between Parliament and the Executive. What does this mean for democracy and the doctrine of separation of powers?
It's very bad for the democracy of this country and it doesn't augur well for good governance and it truly indicates that some people in governance have totally failed to read and internalize the provisions of the Constitution and our laws. What we have is not bad blood between the organs of government but a total disregard almost in contempt of the rules that govern us.
It's a total disregard of the Constitutional provisions which establish the separate organs of government, demarcated responsibilities between them and trying to ensure that there is harmonious relationship and equilibrium between those organs. People, either through personalized understanding or personalized greed or personalized politics, have totally ignored the supreme law of Uganda and they are doing so at their own peril and peril of this country.
What does the continued disregard for the Constitution project for the country?
That is preciously what it is. Some of us participated directly or indirectly in the struggle we are talking about. Some of us were named as pillars of the movement because we believed in the principles and ethics of the then National Resistance Movement which they have now abandoned and believed that democracy, the rule of law and good governance [would] be restored in this country.
If you read the literature that has occurred especially since the end of the 1996 elected Parliament, they have reversed every thing we believed in. They have reversed much of what President Museveni and his colleagues who went to the bush to fight and lost life for. Museveni, the likes of Kizza Besigye, John Kazoora, Elly Tumwine risked their lives, their comrades, friends and relatives perished in the struggle in order to establish the principles enshrined in the NRM 10-point programme which was abandoned in pursuit of personalized politics of greed, overstaying in power or contempt of other leaders and certainly of disregard to people's wishes.
Today if we look at the writings, statements of great people like Gen David Tinyefuza, Gen Elly Tumwine, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, they are all regretting what has happened today. They all say the revolution and principles on which they fought in the bush war have been abandoned by the president.
Why? The answer is easy to find. You look at the allegations of embezzlement of public funds or corruption, abuse of office by our current leaders almost from top to bottom, people are believed to have embezzled billions of money, abused their offices and built unknown mansions, property and nobody has done anything.
There are media reports of a clash between the president and the speaker of Parliament. He accuses Rebecca Kadaga of frustrating NRM's agenda and only recently ordered Police to interrogate her in relation to statements she made about the autopsy report of the late MP Cerinah Nebanda.
He also called MPs who faulted the same report "idiots" and "fools." What do you make of such a statement?
I'm very saddened that the president whom I still admire for his energies, whom I served, can make such a statement. He should be forced either by circumstances or by something else to think so low in his judgment of the characters of Members of Parliament and to reach a stage where he can be so abusive as to call them idiots and fools, this is most regrettable and a very sad event in the politics of Uganda.
Let me say that I don't have any evidence whatsoever that the Speaker of Parliament has committed any wrong or she's conspiring with anyone to damage this government. After all, it's this government that lifted her from the front bench to be the speaker. It was none other than the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who nominated her. Nobody has told me that she is mad; then how can she act against her own government?
Sometimes, the fault is not in our stars but in us. In my opinion, it should be the executive and the president to examine their own behaviours and acts instead of always blaming others for their own misfortunes.
My limited knowledge and experience of government is that most governments self-distract, no one outside their own party destroys governments but themselves between a string of historical events going back to time immemorial and the longer they stay in office, the more arrogant they think they are right and more damaging their acts and behaviour. And that is why I can now believe the predictions by Hon Eriya Kategaya who said that the longer you stay in office, as a party, as a minister or as president, the more you are detached from reality.
As one of the key framers of the 1995 Constitution, which carries a provision for the impeachment of the president for misbehaviour or misconduct, isn't it high time MPs moved a motion to impeach the president for misconduct for abusing MPs?
The Constitution enumerates the grounds for impeaching the president and there is a provision under which the president can be impeached but to do so, you have to have a very serious, brave and not an intimidated Parliament.
I think most Ugandans know that with a few exceptions of MPs, the majority of MPs are very much intimidated, they are beholden by the president for their stay in power, many of them are sycophants who would not get a job even in a primary school but they are now elevated to ministerial and senior government positions and these are not the instruments on which impeachment can be sustained.
Another problem is that we have weak civil society organizations which have not reached a stage where they can start a campaign to force their MPs to debate let alone pass a motion of impeachment of the president. It is not debatable that many of the mistakes the president has allowed to be made by his government, some of the omissions are so serious that the motion of impeachment is amply justified in my opinion.
Let me give you a very simple example. If you read our Constitution as amended 2005, chapters six and seven deal with the functions, establishment and sustenance of traditional and cultural leaders. There is only one provision which allows parliament to discuss traditional and cultural leaders and that is the article which deals with the area where there is a dispute of whether a traditional ruler should continue to be there.
There are only two areas where parliament could constitutionally debate the matter; that is Ankole and Busoga. Parliament has no mandate to discuss any other matter like reducing traditional rulers' powers or creating others, that is purely unconstitutional but during the elections, Parliament was summoned and unconstitutionally passed a law which was unconstitutionally limiting the powers and freedoms of monarchies and cultural leaders.
The methods and all the contents were unconstitutional although many knowledgeable commentators starting from the Attorney General then Prof Khiddu Makubuya advised cabinet that the bill was unconstitutional, it was steered through Parliament by a team led by Amama Mbabazi and others and eventually passed, which is not only governance with impunity but it is unconstitutional.
Another ground for impeaching the president is that everybody including commissions have pointed out names of individuals and groups who are corrupt who have embezzled money but the president doesn't do anything. One of the reasons for impeachment is the omission for the president to do what is right for the country; the most important ground is that the president has totally failed to control corruption. He talks and he does not walk the talk; instead, he shields them.
The Constitution says somebody to be respected to be a member of Parliament must be elected by the people okay, there is a provision for him to appoint people out of Parliament but for him to appoint people who have been rejected by Parliament, in my opinion, is tantamount to contempt of the people and therefore liable for impeachment; so, there are many grounds for impeaching him.
There is a latest one of abusing members of Parliament. In our Constitution, Parliament is placed first as the most [important] organ of government because it represents the people and therefore the will of those who have all the power in this country. To call such people who have been elected "idiots" and 'fools' is certainly governing by contempt and contempt of the people, in my opinion, that is something the president should have been impeached for.
Of the two, the president and the Parliament, who is superior to the other?
Article 79 of the Constitution stipulates the functions of Parliament which are that Parliament shall have power to make laws on any matter for peace, order, development, and good governance of this country except as provided by this constitution, no person or body other than Parliament shall have power to make provisions heard in the course of law in Uganda except under authority conferred by an act of Parliament.
Parliament shall protect this constitution and promote the democratic governance in Uganda. These are cardinal functions of Parliament which cannot be interfered with by anybody however mighty or powerful they think they are, not certainly by the president.
The president swore to block a recall of Parliament. Does he have such powers?
I thought that when MPs started collecting signatures for the special session, his threats would stop more MPs to sign but now that they have got the needed signatures, there's no way he can block that process.
How can he? Without Parliament looking unserious, the constitution under 95(5) obliges Speaker to recall Parliament automatically without any option so long as MPs raise a third of their number. And if the speaker bends herself on Museveni's position, she will have discredited herself and the institution of parliament.
As a person who participated in the fight for the rule of law in Uganda, what is your word of wisdom to the people in power today?
There is a problem of total disregard of the people's aspirations and sentiments. We are being governed by total impunity but there is no government that is immune to disruption, no leader stays in power indefinitely, sooner or later, they will account for their mistakes or omissions and when that happens, they will regret that they never protected their names or secured the future of their names and to me, that is the saddest commentary on how governance is being conducted in this country.
They should bear it in mind that in all countries where disruption of governments has been, the acquired properties through corruption go immediately. Lastly, we have reached the crossroads in Uganda of which each of us must decide which road we shall take and we must decide now where that road will take us in 2016.