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All about nothing, or was it?

In a few weeks time it will all be forgotten, I suppose, being almost inevitably overtaken by other scenarios, serious, significant, tragic or merely bizarre.

It’s as if we are all being choreographed into unfolding scenarios over which we have no control but in which we are all obliged to be bit players. Some feel for this strange, worrying future was implicit in concerns that were expressed about the immediate aftermath of the election.

The President, no less, had repeatedly warned us about the dangers of bloodshed and civil war so that it was not at all unnatural that some BDP supporters in Gaborone, heeding his concerns, kept their houses locked and barricaded (not an exaggeration by the way) until the to- be-expected violent post-election storm blew over.

In the event, as we all know, there was no bloodshed and no civil war – and everyone voted in the same way that they had previously voted, with great patience and a degree of humour.

How would it have been otherwise? But it then turned out that those post-election fears were not at all unfounded because, without respite, the country was yanked into one of the most bizarre of all possible scenarios – the Attorney General suing the new, just elected Parliament on behalf of the President citing the Democratic Party of which he is President as one of its targets. Perhaps being slow to catch on, I am still to understand how a Parliament could have been sued and how a President can sue himself. 

But it was only a short time ago that the Minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo, was told that he could not legally sue Parliament, as had been his intention? What might now hold him back from making a second attempt, if that were his wish?

But the decision to take Parliament to court for supposedly cutting across the terms of its own parent document, the Constitution, was a decision which would have been taken with deliberation, care and consideration by some of the country’s top legal brains. 

Every possible angle would have been thought about, the chances of success, the implications of failure and, perhaps, even the impact on public opinion. Possibly they went further to find out if a democratically elected government had ever sued its own Parliament, in effect, itself? Were there any precedents for such a dramatic course of action?   And if so, what had been the outcome? But legal action assumes an outcome.

Had Parliament and the three sued political parties been found guilty of transgressing the Constitution, they would have

expected some sort of sentence, as would anybody convicted of the same ‘crime’ - a fine, a term in jail, a suspended sentence.

Had the Attorney General, acting on behalf of the President anticipated or indeed intended such a possible outcome? The scenario is almost impossible to comprehend.

So why did it happen? The issue(s) so we have been told, came down to a method of voting, should it be this way or that way – the explanation being that open voting is handier for a President wanting to pressurise his own MPs to back his choice of Vice President and Speaker.  In the event the legal attempt to ensure an open vote failed, the case fizzled out and the method of voting – when it occurred – proved to have no bearing on the President’s ability to secure the support he needed, the vote of the one dissident BDP MP having been irrelevant to the outcome. So why the doubt, implanted by Newman/Collins, that he would achieve such backing?

All he had to do was to lean on one or two and the job was done.  Instead, we had to endure this incredible legal pageant with the Attorney General, on his behalf, suing his own party members, including his own brother, thus placing them in the strangest of all possible situations.

 It can only be a matter of conjecture what effect, both long and short term, this has had on personal relationships within the party, on the party’s cohesion and sense of loyalty. 

The entire scenario is so bizarre, so wildly improbable that there has to be some notion that we are being sold a dud – that there really were significant issues that were involved.

But what could they have been? Was the work of Parliament set back by a week by the Attorney General’s simple, straight forward wish to obtain clarification from the High Court, as the government’s spin doctor would have us believe – which suggests that there was no other way of doing so.

Or was there nothing? In which case, what could explain this extraordinary sense of panic – what else was it – which triggered sensible people doing very insensible things?

 In the upshot, another question remains. Before the new Parliament has even sat, it is dragged into the High Court. Will this prove to be a one off, or a practice run for the future?

Etcetera II



Ugandan 2021 elections

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