ANNUAL RULE OF LAW
Assessing the Progress of the Rule of
Law in Uganda 51 Years after
Golf Course Hotel, Kampala
Organized by Uganda Law Society (ULS)
Supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Ministry of
Table of Contents
One year into the next half-century since the Union Jack was lowered—as the Uganda
flag was hoisted—the legal fraternity together with their partners Konrad Adenauer
Stiftung and the Justice, Law and Order Sector convened the sixth annual Rule of Law
Symposium. The overall objective was to provide a platform for critical thought,
discussion and space within which to muster a clearly defined set of action points
towards making the legal fraternity the vanguard for the development of a political
culture that espouses the Rule of Law, Constitutionalism and Democracy.
Convened on Friday, 4
October 2013 at Kampala Golf Course Hotel, it was attended by
over six hundred lawyers and invited guests from within and outside Uganda. As
planned, the papers presented by distinguished scholars and the subsequent
deliberations from the floor were consistent with the need to accelerate current efforts by
the fraternity towards defending Constitutionalism as well as comprehensive
approaches geared towards the amelioration of the socio-economic and political
predicaments that have been pervasive in Uganda’s past and current dispensation.
The event featured a keynote presentation by Hon. Paul Kibugi Muite, a renowned
expert in Constitutional Law and veteran Kenyan politician. The keynote address was
followed by a panel of experts including; Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, the former
Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission and currently United Nations
Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders; Mr. David Mafabi, a
Political Scientist and Presidential Advisor on Political Affairs to the President of
Uganda who made the case for ―a revolutionary approach to development‖ and the final
discussant, Mr. Peter Walubiri, a seasoned Land Law expert and Lecturer at Makerere
University whose presentation’s mainstay was the inconsistencies and impracticalities of
the legal regime governing land (both in the Constitution and the Land Act) whose
adverse effects have been borne by the ordinary Ugandan.
2.0 OFFICIAL OPENING
The Symposium commenced with a hearty welcome by Ms. Ruth Ssebatindira, the
President of the Uganda Law Society (ULS) who in addition to thanking partners
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Ministry of Justice/Justice, Law and Order Sector for
their technical and financial support towards the event, proceeded to underscore the
importance of having the legal fraternity play a lead role in championing the observance
of the Rule of Law by checking the adherence of state institutions to democratic
principles and good practice. She noted that the Annual Rule of Law Day provides an
important avenue through which to assess Uganda’s performance.
On his part, Mr. Peter Wendoh, the Project Advisor
from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Rule of Law
Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa Office
acknowledged and encouraged the legal fraternity
in Uganda to continue with ongoing efforts
towards safeguarding the observance of the Rule of
Law since it is necessary for progress and
3.0 KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HON. PAUL K. MUITE - CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER
AND FORMER KENYA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Hon. Muite commenced his address with an observation that a common thread that runs
through Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Burundi
is the penchant for undertaking much-touted
Constitution making processes within the
recent past, with Kenya being the latest to
promulgate a new Constitution.
He proceeded to question what he called the
obsession with Constitution making processes
yet incumbents have mastered a plethora of
manipulative methods of prolonging their stay
in power including the invariable rigging of
elections. He underscored the urgency with
which lawyers ought to lead the rest of the
citizenry in the defense of the Rule of Law,
Constitutionalism and the broader subject of Democracy.
He explained that part of the problem is historical. Whereas the past was punctuated by
illiteracy, poverty and suffering, overt military dictatorships, one-party states have, over
the last twenty years, been abandoned for one form or other type of elected government.
He concluded that the pervasive African Paradox of having Constitutions and elaborate
legal regimes but without Constitutionalism is antithetical to political stability.
Fundamentally, Constitutional mechanisms revolve around the basic organs of
government: Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary. Constitutionalism is not just about
laws and following them. It is about the legitimacy of the laws: ultimately, unjust laws
The Citizen’s Duty is to muster and use civic courage; stand up to oppressive designs.
Quoting Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, he stated that “… when men have realized that
time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the
very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free
trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the
competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be
He also called upon the legal fraternity network with the Civil Society, the Media and
the Citizen around issues of public interest such as the illegal re-appointment of a retired
Chief Justice as Chief Justice as well as the lifting of term limits.
4.0 PANEL DISCUSSIONS
Ms. Margaret Sekaggya – UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of
Human Rights Defenders
In her remarks, Ms. Sekaggya explained the origins of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda
which was developed against the back drop of mass human rights violations and a
history of turbulence. She averred that the Justice Odoki Commission that was put in
place then sought to establish;
The Legislature, Executive and Judiciary;
Commissions including the Human Rights Commission;
Constitutional safeguards, checks and balances.
She also noted that on the international front,
Uganda has signed, ratified and domesticated a
number of international instruments such as the
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of
Convention on the
Convention on the
Rights of the Child
(CRC); and Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (UDHR) among others.
This then begs the question: with the above policy and legal framework, have the Rule of
Law, Democracy and Constitutionalism taken root? Article 1 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that “All human beings are born equal in dignity
and rights.” This is reiterated by the 1995 Constitution by guaranteeing equality and
freedom from discrimination.
However, she observed that the requisite values haven’t been inculcated into the
population. It is the work of the State to inculcate values otherwise the Rule of Law
cannot be realized when basic values are not appreciated. Further she noted that
impunity is another limitation because in spite of trial processes and Commissions of
Inquiry, no culprits are brought to book in a manner that resolves disputes to a logical
and satisfactory conclusion. Coupled with impunity, Ms Sekaggya noted that it is
corruption that is impeding the enjoyment of human rights and hence an avenue for
disenfranchisement. This she argued is because corruption emasculates institutions and
thereby eroding democracy. Thirdly, she argued that the rule of law has been hampered
by lack of adequate security and law enforcement as flagged by successive Uganda
Human Rights Commission Reports.
Finally she decried the development of oppressive legislation such as the Public Order
Management Act, Non Governmental Organizations Act, Interception of
―It is the work of the State to
inculcate values…the Rule
of Law cannot be realized
when basic values are not
Communications Act et-cetera; all of which give unfettered discretionary powers to the
Police and serve to stifle the enjoyment of rights.
Needless to add, assaults to the independence of the Judiciary, closure and harassment
of media houses and journalists, fusion of the arms of government/disregard for the
Rule of Law have been prominent as manifested in the High Court siege of 2007.
Mr. David Mafabi - Political Scientist and Presidential Advisor on
Mr. Mafabi begun his presentation by referring to three quote which read as follows:
“The Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath”; found in the Book of Mark, 2:27 in
the Bible; “ Seek Truth” by Mao Tse Tung and “ The truth must be solid” by Anon.
His first port of call was the prospects and
challenges of the Nexus between achieving
middle income status in Uganda by 2017. He
noted the significance of the nexus between
economics, politics and society; stating that
the biggest problem with Uganda and Africa
at large was that the elite suffer from
ideological disorientation. He proffered that
lawyers ought to contribute to the progress
of their continent by taking a revolutionary
approach to democratization. Economics pre
determines the politics; that is why the NRM
Government is focusing on economic
growth which will resultantly deliver a
He further added that the leadership of Uganda is preoccupied with energy, peace and
security, increase in foreign direct investment and exploration of new frontiers like
cybernetics, metallurgy, nuclear energy, regional integration and petroleum exploration.
In conclusion, he stated that the NRM’s landslide victory of 68% is a testimony of the
citizens’ trust in the current regime, and the peace and security that has been pursued by
the National Resistance Movement. The Middle Class must participate in the socio-
economic struggle for liberation. They must emulate Amilcar Cabral, Meles Zenawi and
of course, Yoweri Museveni…as well as Ugandans deep in academia but at the forefront
of liberation such as Prof. Dan Nabudere. That we must steer clear of becoming
―peasants in suits‖ because of ideological disorientation and emphasized that the
economy must be liberated first.
Mr. Peter Walubiri, Land Law Expert and Lecturer
In his presentation, Mr. Walubiri
approached the theme from the
Land rights angle and argued that
Uganda cannot solve the land
conflicting rights created by the
1995 Constitution. Why then are
contestations going on:
Between landlords and
Between the central
He noted that the foregoing
questions have their origins in the
Colonial Settlement (Buganda
categories of land tenure systems
without elaborate safe-guards for all attendant interests. The Busuulu and Envujjo laws in
Buganda, Tooro Landlord and Tenant Law, Ankole Landlord and Tenant Law were shattered
by the 1975 Land Reform Decree thereby creating a vacuum. By designating ―public
land‖, the stage was set for mass evictions which have continued to this day.
The obtaining Land Act is unconstitutional because it legalizes trespass in purporting to
protect occupants. The lawful occupant/bona fide occupant is an unproductive
marriage. It is a retrogressive law. Summarily, the Land Act creates a dispensation of the
Rule by Law not the Rule of Law. There is no security of tenancy for either
On how government can resolve the contest between government and districts where
land acquisitions are taking place, he noted that we must realize that this is a political
question that must be debated openly and exhaustively. The simmering contests
between the occupants of Amuru and a government-backed investor should be resolved
against that background. This is a microcosm that proves the fact that the 1995
Constitution didn’t resolve the land question. Disregard for the Rule of Law and mal-
administration of public resources only make an already combustible situation more
The following were the solutions recommended by Mr. Walubiri;
We need a new legal regime that clearly defines who owns land between
landlords and tenants.
The new law must fix a formula for compensation for both landlords and tenants.
We must then go back to compulsory acquisition of land for development
5.0 PLENARY DISCUSSIONS
The next session captured the key discussion areas from the plenary which included the
Going beyond the norm to champion Constitutionalism and Rule of Law
The participants at the symposium noted the need to identify mechanisms by which
constitutionalism and rule of law can be championed beyond the conventional seminars,
symposia etc that can be undertaken by lawyers such as the Future of the International
The Need for a Constitutional Review to address Current Gaps
It was noted that the 1995 Constitution of Uganda as it stands created certain gaps that
need urgent review and amelioration. This could be one of the ways that the Uganda
Law Society can practically champion rule of law and constitutionalism. This may
include; supporting independent and bold judges; mobilizing the population around
specific issues, and providing leadership to the legal fraternity and the general public.
The Lord Mayor Elias
Lukwago (Right) and
Hon. Betty Kamya
(left) advance their
arguments during the
The Role of Civil Society
The struggle for constitutionalism and rule of law requires concerted efforts by the legal
fraternity together with other likeminded civil society institutions. Governments need to
find a balance between neo-liberalism and the welfare of citizens.
Balancing Economic Development and Social Welfare
Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law cannot take root in an exclusive system. The
economy must be aligned along equal opportunity terms but ultimately equal access to
healthcare, education and services are a guarantor of stability and the Rule of Law.
Changes in the economy for instance were fundamental to the democratization and
socio-economic progress of England.
Duality of Land
There is urgent need to address the question of duality of land rights that were created
by the 1995 Constitution that curtail meaningful development in Uganda considering
that land is a major factor of production.