Letters to UGPulse.com: Was the Arrest of Vincent Nzaramba Illegal?
Vincent Nzaramba on a short youtube clip concerning his arrest.

Letters to UGPulse.com: Was the Arrest of Vincent Nzaramba Illegal?

Arrest of Vincent Nzaramba: By making these kinds of arrests the government is hiding behind a false shield.

By Damba Godslave
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First published: October 3, 2011


Museveni. Vincent Nzaramba told the BBC he was unlawfully detained for five days for publishing People Power - Battle the Mighty General.
Africa / 22 September 2011 http://www.bbc.co.uk



The recent arrest of Vincent Nzaramba over his book, People Power - Battle of the Mighty General, is not only a national embarrassment but it is also may violate several laws.  Freedom speech and freedom of the press are two cornerstones of a free and fair society and both are enshrined in the constitutional of The Republic of Uganda.  Article 29 of the Constitutional clearly states “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media.”  Freedom of the media is an essential means by which the people protect themselves from tyranny.  Freedom of Conscious and expression are prized as the greatest happiness that man can posses in this world and it is the duty of the government to protect that right.


It is not only the constitution that the current government is throwing out the window but settled international law and treaties as well. Uganda is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 19 of the treaty states that “everyone shall have the right of freedom of expression.”  There are several other articles of the ICCPR that mention freedom the media or speech and the arrest of Mr. Nzaramba seems to be a direct violation of these principles.

There are, of course, some restrictions on the freedom of speech under international and domestic law that the government relies on to make these kinds of arrests. For example, one cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater.  The AG, under obvious direction of the president has claimed that Mr. Nzaramba was trying to incite violence; which, if true, would certainly be an offense.  However, The United Nations Human Rights Committee has perhaps said it best when they wrote,

“…the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties. Moreover, all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.”

So, clearly simply pointing out the illegal acts of a president does not fall into the exceptions of this freedom.  By making these kinds of arrests the government is hiding behind a false shield.  They are showing that they believe the people of Uganda are too stupid to know their rights. Furthermore, The “President” is showing his true colors by this petty retaliatory act against a critic. There is far greater danger to the country by suppressing critical speech than by letting such criticism stand. This arrest is not only illegal but it is a national embarrassment, an insult to Ugandans, and an insult to free people everywhere.

By Damba Godslave
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First published: October 3, 2011
Damba Godslave is a regular visitor to UGPulse.com.

Letters to UGPulse can be sent to letters@ugpulse.com.