AFRICANGLOBE – Until New Year’s Day, she was just another not-very-famous local singer. Don’t even ask her name if you live outside Uganda, for you’ve probably never heard of her. She is not Jose Chameleone who falls off a balcony in Tanzania and the whole of East Africa hears about it.
But if she never made it to the list of Uganda’s top musicians, this girl is now set to enter the country’s legal history and law students could read about her in future as they learn about bail issues.
It is all thanks to a tiff she had with her wealthy lover on New Year’s Eve when he allegedly administered a couple of slaps and probably aimed a punch at the temple, leaving her with a lump that local kids call a “small potato” on the face.
It would have been another small forgettable disagreement between couples, but the young lady etched her name in Uganda’s legal history by protesting on social media. She harangued police to come to her rescue, alleging assault, torture and other human-rights abuses visited upon her by her lover, as photos of her “small potato” went smalltime viral.
With the feminist momentum mounting against police for male bias, her pleas were heeded. Rich lover boy was detained on January 2. Apparently finding her cold bed intolerable without her man, lover girl went to the station and demanded his release. But you don’t just switch police on and off like that. The law proceeded on its course and the gentleman was taken to court.
Now the loyal partner, she stood surety for the accused to be granted bail. We would have forgotten the case and moved on to other romantic quarrels, for there is no shortage of these in Kampala, the city of seven daily rumours.
But there was the little matter that as the complainant and also the key state witness against the accused, she was at the same time standing as his surety. Some lawyers said it was irregular. Others said there was nothing on the books to prohibit it. But the fact remains that the learned magistrate allowed it.
Small story? Not exactly. Bail is an interesting matter in Uganda, one that fascinates us non-legal people. For instance, not one but several guys have been convicted in the High Court of embezzling large sums of public funds. They have promptly appealed and gone ahead to apply for bail and been released, pending the hearing and conclusion of the appeal. This vexes the ordinary person, but is perfectly in order for the legal people.
They tell us that sometime in the early 1960s, a large payroll robbery took place in western Uganda and the guys involved were arrested, charged and convicted.
However, one of them applied for bail pending determination of his appeal and it was granted. There was no turning back and that is what is enabling criminal convicts to walk free today, knowing that the Court of Appeal rarely has enough judges to hear such matters.
So while the fight against gender based violence — fashionably called GBV these days — gathers momentum in Uganda, its perpetrators can now count on their economically dependent victims helping them secure their release. And life goes on…
By: Joachim Buwembo