Our ancestors opined that someone stronger than you can effortlessly grab a club in your grip and then use it to flog you. Put it the other way round, it means that a weakling can never be safe from negative advances from the bully even when he (the weakling) happened to be wielding a club of whatever size at the time of the attack.
This adage has proved true in respect of Rwenzururu king (Omusinga) Charles Wesley Mumbere. Much as kings are likened to lions—the bigger cat being referred to as the king of the jungle–; the fact has not deterred the president who is obviously mightier by advantage of possessing the tools of coercion, from cutting the Omusinga to size.
If you don’t know already, the president started off by directing a raid on Mumbere’s palace which security touched and left it into flames. The king was picked in the manner you and I would be, charged with close to 50 criminal offences and later dispatched to Nalufeenya prison first and later to Luzira Maximum security prison.
When he applied for release on bail and by the way, he was successful at it; security was at hand to pick the king and swiftly drove him back to prison. It happened twice, but neither the judges nor the noise made by Mumbere’s lawyers, subjects, politicians and the so-called human rights activists were enough to jerk government into freeing the king as the so-called mighty judiciary had commanded.
After he had worn out Mumbere following the 71 days he had kept the king in prison and after subjecting him ( Mumbere) to the humiliation we have enumerated above, the president then reached out to him (the king) for negotiations. Talk of dialogue between a lion and an antelope! It’s after reading the “Animal Kingdom” book of Orwell that you ca put the dialogue here into perspective.
Thus cornered and desperate to leave prison, Mumbere had no choice but to agree to a set of conditions never that a serious audit of the same would reveal that they (the conditions) have a negative effect of rendering him (Mumbere) a king in name.
For instance, following the talks with Museveni, Mumbere will have no business stepping into his kingdom anymore. As if that is not bad enough, the king is not allowed to step anywhere near his kingdom. The negotiations have since exiled Mumbere to Buziga in Kampala hundreds of miles away from Kasese; the seat of his kingdom.
Now tell me, what kind of king is one that has no territory to operate from? If the king cannot go to his kingdom, how then is he supposed to carry out his cultural duties?
Barred from meeting subjects
According to reports that have since emerged, Mumbere has no right to meet his subjects in groups anymore. He is allowed to meet not more than eight people at a go. Even then, he must reveal to the State identities of the people that he will be meeting and for what reason! This clearly shows that the king has been cut off from his subjects. Now, if a king is stopped from freely meeting his subjects, it would be as good as rendering such a king irrelevant (sorry for the pun).
You are not safe too
But most importantly, the serious implications that have come out of the negotiations between Mumbere and the president must worry any discerning person. For one, a precedent has been created which is that, the State can now dictate to the judiciary terms under which an otherwise deserving suspect can be granted bail. And sadly, the judiciary goes ahead to accept such terms going by this precedence no matter that such a thing would ordinarily run counter to the 1995 Ugandan constitution. If a king has been subjected to such humiliation as above, what will stop the State then from treating other lesser souls even much worse as far as bail is concerned?
The State has for the second time stopped a king from moving freely. The State has previously restricted the movements of Dr Kizza Besigye, among other politicians. This is contrary to the constitution which grants Ugandans the right of movement. What is happening should be a matter of concern to all of us as Ugandans whose movements the State can choose to restrict at will.
Much as the constitution grants Mumbere the right to associate with others (let alone his subjects), he cannot meet them anymore or at least he must do so with the approval and consent of the State. This immediately brings to mind another controversial legislation under the political organizations management act which not only bars politicians from meeting Ugandans without approval of the Inspector general of police, but has also been used to stop non-political gatherings at the whim of police. This is indeed coercion at play.
To cut the long story short, Mumbere’s and Museveni’s deal comes with repercussions for everyone regardless of whether such victims were party to the negotiations or not.