What’s Treason in the Uganda Constitution?


We have not yet obtained an official copy of the indictment/charge sheet (to see the particulars of the charge) but there are reports that he was charged with treason at around 6.00 pm (one hour past court’s official working time) on Friday13 May 2016 in the north-eastern district of Moroto in Karamoja sub-region before the Magistrate’s Court in Moroto and he is now on remand until 25 May 2016 when his case will come up for ‘mention’ (not hearing).[1]

You must be aware that this will not be the first time to bring treason charges against political opponents in this country. Basically, by charging someone with treason, the State is able to detain him or her for a longer period of time as it is carrying out unending ‘investigations’. It is also very difficult to get bail for such a serious offence. In short, treason charges can be used to tame key figures in opposition politics and to pressurise them to apply for an ‘amnesty’.

The offence of treason is set out in Article 23 of the Penal Code Act of Uganda, Chapter 120 of the Laws of Uganda, introduced in Uganda by British Colonialists in 1950. The text reads as follows:

“23. Treason and offences against the State.

(1) Any person who—

levies war against the Republic of Uganda;

unlawfully causes or attempts to cause the death of the President or, with intent to maim or disfigure or disable, unlawfully wounds or does any harm to the person of the President, or aims at the person of the President any gun, offensive weapon, pistol or any description of firearm, whether it contains any explosive or destructive substance or not;

contrives any plot, act or matter and expresses or declares such plot, act or matter by any utterance or by any overt act in order, by force of arms, to overturn the Government as by law established;

aids or abets another person in the commission of the foregoing acts, or becomes an accessory before or after the fact to any of the foregoing acts or conceals any of those acts,

commits an offence and shall suffer death.

(2) Any person who forms an intention to effect any of the following purposes—

to compel by force or constrain the Government as by law established to change its measures or counsels or to intimidate or overawe Parliament; or

to instigate any person to invade the Republic of Uganda with an armed force, and manifests any such intention by an overt act or by any utterance or by publishing any printing or writing, commits an offence and shall suffer death.

(3) Any person who advisedly attempts to effect any of the following purposes—

to incite any person to commit an act of mutiny or any treacherous or mutinous act; or

to incite any such person to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly, commits an offence and is liable to suffer death.

(4) Any person who advisedly attempts to seduce any person serving in the armed forces or any member of the police force or prison services or any other security service, by whatever name called, from his or her duty and allegiance to the Constitution commits an offence and is liable to suffer death.”

We do not know yet know the specific acts in the above section Besigye is alleged to have committed. We, therefore, reserve any comment at this stage.

‘Winnie Byanyima- How it is like being Besigye’s Wife’:

REFERENCES
[1] http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Muntu-faults-Judiciary-on-Besigye-treason-case/-/688334/3203332/-/15bb211/-/index.html; http://observer.ug/news-headlines/44227-besigye-charged-with-treason-remanded-to-moroto-prison; http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Tension-as-court-charges-Dr-Besigye-with-treason/-/688334/3203432/-/133p7n9/-/index.html

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