21 January 2013

Uganda: Mukula - 'Selective Justice' Chants Are Worrying


Soroti Municipality MP Mike Mukula is gen- erally seen as an amiable politician - smart, kind and approachable. There are many who have anecdotes of acts of generosity by Capt Mukula, and some of these cannot believe what has be- fallen him.

On Friday, Mukula was sentenced to a four- year jail term, in the latest chapter in the fall- out from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) scandal. The court found Mukula guilty of stealing Shs 210m GAVI money, money meant to support the initiatives to save Uganda's children.

Mukula, who has all along protested his in- nocence, was convicted despite having returned the money, after it was not used for mobilization activities by First Lady Janet Museveni. Obviously, Mukula reserves the right to ap- peal the conviction; but in as far as the court was right, its decision to convict Mukula must be lauded. As this newspaper has often argued, a society that does not apply sanctions against deviance opens the way for wrongdoing to be- come the norm.

Mukula may be a nice man, but this does not make him infallible. And if, like any human being, he made mistakes, it is only right that he should be punished. What was disturbing, however, was the sight of people protesting the conviction of Mukula on grounds that this was selective justice. It is disturbing because it does call the credibility of our justice system into question.

There is a per- ception, right or wrong, that the criminal justice system can be used to serve the political inter- ests of the powers that be, because other people who have faced similar charges are free. While anyone charged with an offence must face their liability as individuals, the judicial system, as a whole, should know that people are watching what it does, and should take extra care to ensure that the principle of equality be- fore the law is not seen to have been breached. Short of this, the system will lose its credibility; something that once lost, may be very difficult to regain.

Copyright © 2013 The Observer. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.