The Principal Judge Dr. Justice Yorokam Bamwine and the Chairperson Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) Med Kaggwa have re-affirmed their commitment to defending the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
While officiating at the National Constitutional Day Celebrations held at the Constitutional Square on Wednesday October 3, 2018, Justice Bamwine said that as long as the spirit of Constitutionalism is absent, the spirit of ruling or being ruled by basic standards and ideals with an overriding rule of law or ethics and the talk about constitutionalism shall remain empty rhetoric.
“We can say that the Constitution is sacred, that any unlawful interference with it amounts to the capital offence of treason and that citizens have the right and duty to defend it by all means. Yes, it tells you to defend it but how many times have we defended it? You can’t progress if you don’t believe in what you say. For me I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints and the resurrection of the body. I believe in the Bible and I cannot tire; so how about the Constitution. I believe in the Constitution; can all Ugandans do the same?” Dr. Bamwine stated. Alluding to a quotation from former United States of America President Barrack Obama, Dr. Bamwine therefore said Ugandans should cultivate among themselves a culture of Constitutionalism whereby one can say; “I was going to do this, but because of the Constitution, I can’t.”
Still at the same function, the Head of Judges of the High Court also listed seven elements of Constitutionalism as; Separation of powers basing on which he said he does not want to see the Executive arm of government interfere with judicial decisions and the vice versa; Sovereignty of the people and democratic governance which he said is based on the tenet that leaders should be servants of the people and Constitutional review which he said is an avenue of determining the Constitutionality of the laws. He however regretted that up to now people do not believe that judges can sit in Mbale or anywhere else and nullify a law which has been passed by Parliament and yet the Constitution gives them the power. The other elements listed by the Principal Judge were an Independent Judiciary which he cautioned that the moment the Judiciary loses its independence, then the future of this country would be bleak and also pointed out the bill of individual human rights.
Referring to Article 1 of the Constitution which states that all power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution, he said the Constitution limits the power of the state and thus leaders. “Yes, I have heard people say that there is nothing special about the Constitution, that just as bread can be eaten without butter, this country can be governed without a Constitution. Such people need a day as this one to understand the importance of the Constitution. I therefore challenge UHRC to drive mindset change among members of the public which is all we need to instill a culture of Constitutionalism in our country,” Dr. Bamwine said and pledged his support to the UHRC whenever called upon.
On his part, the Chairperson Mr. Kagwa said the UHRC is constitutionally mandated under Article 52 to protect and promote human rights in Uganda. “This is a broad mandate that includes creating awareness, monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country as well as resolving complaints of human rights violations. Specifically related to commemoration of the Constitution Day, the Commission also has a function to educate the public on the Constitution and encourage them to defend it at all times that is why we have embarked on a series of activities that will climax with a National Public Dialogue on the sovereignty of the people that will be held at Sheraton Hotel, Kampala on Friday October 5, 2018,” he said.
He further noted that it is UHRC’s tradition to implement activities to commemorate the promulgation of the Constitution of Uganda which happened on October 8, 1995 in recognition of the critical importance of the Constitution as the supreme law of Uganda. He revealed that today’s commemoration is also an acknowledgement of the country’s hope that Uganda promulgated a highly consultative Constitution to set it off on the road to constitutionalism, away from its history of political turmoil and dictatorships.
“Constitutionalism is not just the adoption of a document or fundamental principles as the guiding rules by which a given country is governed; but it is the widespread willingness and readiness on the part of those who govern and those that are governed to abide by both the letter and the spirit of the fundamental laws. Constitutionalism therefore implies both a political reality of government limited by law; and a psychological and social disposition on the part of citizens to be limited and bound by law. In view of this, it is clear that respect for the Constitution is the foundation of democracy, good governance, human rights observance and the rule of law, all of which are closely interlinked,” Mr. Kaggwa said.
The other guest was the President Uganda Law Society Simon Peter Kinobe who enunciated Uganda’s Constitutional history and stressed the significance of the Constitution and the people by giving a wider interpretation of its Article 1 and 2. Also at the function were students from Lubiri Secondary School who performed a song and a poem based on the theme of the day as one of the ways through which UHRC was inculcating constitutionalism among the youth.
The celebrations started with a peaceful procession from the Constitutional Square and back to the same venue where the main celebrations were held in which Dr. Bamwine was the Chief Walker. The long procession attracted participants from Civil Society Organizations like UWONET; members from Uganda Law Society; students from Bugema, Busitema and Mutesa I Royal Universities and Lubiri S.S as well as staff from UHRC. The walk was led by the Prisons Brass band and was joined by members of the public who included some from drama groups who spiced up the occasion.
The walk from the Constitutional Square saw the marchers move from Constitutional Square taking the north past the Kampala Central Police station (CPS) into Lumumba Avenue past Rwenzori Towers up to the roundabout and slopping down along Speke Road past Serena Hotel. The procession then followed the roundabout at UBC and slopped past the eastern Wing of Parliament and branched off into Parliamentary Avenue. They then turned off into Kimathi Avenue past Theatre LA Bonita, Speke Hotel and Standard Chartered Bank on Speke Road again and slopped on the road between Imperial Hotel and Bank of Uganda, back to the Constitutional (City) Square where the main festivities comprised of speeches and entertainment were held. The main event at Constitutional Square was crowned with the symbolic signing of their re-commitment to upholding the Constitution by the Chief Guest, Justice Yorokamu Bamwine and the Chairperson of UHRC on dummy of the Ugandan Constitution.