President Yoweri Museveni has apportioned blame to the Police for enforcing a colonial law – annoying the President – instead of focusing on the substance of the acts or intentions of people who commit offences relating to incitement.
Section 24 of the Penal Code Act protects the President and makes it an offence to alarm or annoy or ridicule the President. The maximum punishment for one found guilty of this offence is imprisonment for life.
Some people including recently, veteran journalist turned Pastor, Joseph Kabuleta have been arrested over charges relating to annoying the President or making statements considered offensive to the President.
Last week when Kabuleta was picked up by detectives at Forest Mall in Lugogo, the Police spokesperson, CP Fred Enanga later confirmed that the Watchman Ministries Pastor had been apprehended because of offensive communication against the person of the President.
Police said Kabuleta repeatedly posted “grossly offensive messages” under “Joseph Kabuleta Weekly Rant Returns” referring to the Fountain of Honour as “a Gambler, Thief and Liar”.
Kabuleta isn’t the only one who has had run-ins with authorities for annoying President Museveni. In January of this year, Police in Gomba district arrested a 19-year-old man for allegedly insulting President Museveni.
According to the authorities, Joseph Kasumba, a resident of Kanoni town, abused Museveni who was on his way back from attending a New Year’s church service at St John’s Cathedral.
“When his [Museveni’s] convoy reached Kanoni town, Special Forces Command soldiers reportedly ordered one of the drivers to move his vehicle from the road to allow the presidential motorcade pass. This is when a group of youth allegedly led by Kasumba started exchanging words with the soldiers and abused President Museveni, calling him all sorts of names including Bosco. They also blamed him of constructing narrow roads,” the Daily Monitor reported in January.
The Gomba District Police Commander, Robert Kuzaara said at the time that the accused would be charged with alarming, annoying and ridiculing the person of the president contrary to the Penal Code Act.
Makerere University researcher, Dr Stella Nyanzi who is jailed in Luzira prison was also arrested for abusing President Museveni and his deceased mother in a September 16 Facebook post.
Several times, the charge (annoying the President) has been preferred along with others like offensive communication and disturbing the peace of the President.
In 2017, David Mugema 31, a local musician together with his music producer were arrested and charged for annoying the President.
Prosecution alleged that Mugema and Muwanguzi between 2015 and 2017 at Salama Road in Makindye, Kampala, repeatedly composed, recorded, produced and electronically communicated through social media a song titled ‘Wumula’ wherein they attacked and disturbed the peace of President Museveni without a legitimate reason.
It was further alleged that Muwanguzi aided Mugema in producing the said song which annoyed the President. But the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) later dropped the charges.
Asked on Thursday by a reporter on his take regarding the charge of “annoying the President”, Museveni who was addressing a news conference at State House Nakasero said he has no problem with being annoyed.
“Annoying the President, I don’t mind being annoyed. I think that was a colonial law which I used to hear about,” the President said.
“I think the issue is not annoying the President. It is those Police people who talk about small issues,” he further stated.
He said the bigger issue should be telling lies and other offences such as sedition, incitement, distortion.
“Police should concentrate on the substance. Like telling lies, incitement and sedition. But a President can be annoyed. If he’s annoyed only, that’s not a big issue”.