MASAKA –Village councils in the Nyendo-Mukungwe division – Masaka district have resolved execute a punishment of dismissal from their respective areas of residence all offenders, suspected of stealing.
The custom of expelling people from their areas of residence is commonly referred to as the Okonkwo banishment in reference to one of Chinua Achebe‘s the best selling novels. The act has since been outlawed, globally.
However, the Masaka LC leaders contend that the relatively unlawful move would rid the villages of people involved in house break-ins and thefts.
Josephine Nassanga -the vice chairperson of Kigo cell, Kibisi ward narrated that the decision followed a surge in thefts, reported in the area. She explained that her office was registering at least five incidents of house break-ins, on weekly basis – the reason the LCs were devising means that could help to reverse the trend.
Nassanga said that the area had in the recent past recorded an influx of strangers, who are lured by cheap accommodation facilities – and many were suspected to be indulging in unacceptable anti-social behaviours.
She emphasized that in addition to expelling offenders, the village council also resolved to compel all landlords to register their tenants with the village authorities before they were allowed to settle in the areas.
Edward Kizza, the vice chairperson, Kirowooza ward noted that many suspected criminals had shifted their bases into the areas that were recently annexed to Masaka city.
He said that the council had now recommended that village leaders should enforce common security guidelines because it was within the mandate of the lower local council to deny wrongdoers opportunities of operating from their areas.
He adds that the adopted guidelines also require anybody seeking to settle in the area to first present introductory letters from their previous areas of residence, such that they could be easily tracked in case they were suspected of participating in criminality.
But Vincent Kasumba – the chairperson, Masaka City Development Forum – while addressing residents of Kasanje village, challenged business persons in the area to individually work out modalities of improving security protocols on their premises – as they waited for collective interventions.
In 2003, parliament, through an amendment of the Local Government Act 1997, gave special powers to village and parish councils to operate court systems at their levels.
The local courts were given the mandate to arbitrate in land disputes and handle petty cases such as theft, domestic violence, and trespass among other cases of less criminal magnitude. The councils were given powers to fine, sentence culprits to community service, and where necessary grant imprisonment but not expel anyone from one area to another – as such a punishment has no legal mandate under the laws of Uganda.
“There is no such a law in Uganda – traditionally leaders would expel people suspected of committing crime – it was called the Okwonkwo banishment (in reference to Nigerian chiefs’ behaviours as contained in chapters of the novel – Things Fall Apart) – it no longer operates, anywhere in the world.
“There are well prescribed set of punishment (s) for each crime in the Penal Code Act and any other principle guiding documents – so leaders should refrain from abusing their offices by taking advantage of the people’s ignorance,” stressed Julius Kavuma Kabenge – a celebrated Kampala attorney and law don.
The act of dismissing someone from their areas of residence, infringes on sections of the Constitution of Uganda, particularly Articles 24, which, states: “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”