Ironically, the minister for ethics and integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo, who should care a lot about people’s dignity, and right to privacy, has decided to run his affairs in the media. He does it the same way senior police officers flaunt whatever victory they assume to have achieved either against presumed criminals or one of their own.
Recently, the Kampala metropolitan police commander, Siraje Bakaleke, made a surprise night visit to some police stations in Kampala. In tow were cameramen from some media houses who recorded Bakaleke’s stunts.
He arrested those he found sleeping aboard police patrol pickup trucks. He nearly arrested a female police officer whom he found without the force’s belt! She was ordered to return home and fetch it. The traffic officers were given some marching drills that night to prove they were alert. He openly chastised others for various breaches.
By this, Bakaleke had accounted to the public how he merits the job. His predecessor, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, had done this kind of thing. But when police doesn’t want their dirty linen exposed, they fight hard to prevent this, including, if need be, beating up journalists. Now that this surprise visit was fully captured by some media houses, it appears there was prior arrangement with the officers concerned.
But that is a story for another day. Fr Lokodo is proving to be a naïve hunter who has not mastered the use of a spear to shoot down his prey. Therefore, when he throws a spear in the wilderness, hoping to catch prey, the weapon boomerangs to him.
A few weeks ago, he addressed a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre and told journalists he had arrested singer Desire Luzinda’s ex-boyfriend. Luzinda’s ex-boyfriend, a one Franklin Emoubor, was accused of spreading her nude pictures on social media.
Therefore, Lokodo informed the nation that Franklin would be charged under the Anti-Pornography Act. It might have been easier to tell a lie in the pre-digital era, but this dotcom age has really displaced that effort. Within hours, Franklin was dispelling Lokodo’s lies!
The man, whom Lokodo claimed he had arrested, was on YouTube deriding the minister for being a liar. To date, Lokodo has never honoured the public about what went wrong with that ‘arrest.’ Why did the minister for ethics rush to tell a lie to Ugandans? How ethical is lying?
Lokodo’s gaffes are quite surprising. Once, when the Anti-Pornography Act was signed by President Museveni, Lokodo told the media that the law had, in effect, banned miniskirts. Any woman found not properly dressed would be arrested and dealt with accordingly.
In fact some city goons, especially boda boda riders – probably relying on the minister’s statement – took it upon themselves to enforce this non-existent law by undressing those found in skimpy dresses. Here was a minister who was not even aware of what was in the law that he sponsored and had been passed in his presence!
Lokodo, again recently addressed the media and announced his war on sex workers, whom he prefers to call prostitutes. This came in the wake of raids on some lodges in city suburbs where lodgers were indiscriminately arrested and labelled prostitutes.
Later it was discovered that some of those arrested had lodged there in the morning, in transit to other places. Even when this was discovered, the minister didn’t return to TV cameras to apologise for that blunder.
The issue here is respect. The minister would not have raided his cabinet colleague even if he knew that the latter had a prostitute with him. But for the defenseless, the minister can do whatever he wants.
He said he had created a squad, which will hunt down prostitutes and those who solicit for their services. Lokodo seems to suggest that it’s only sex-related offences that corrupt public morals. We have seen how his cabinet colleagues have entered unethical contracts and he has conveniently decided to keep mum about it! Why?
Because he is clever not to issue orders in vain. For instance, can he ask or insist on a minister to step aside as he is being investigated over corruption? Two, he cannot afford to violate the right of privacy of his cabinet colleagues. For example, he cannot have an issue with a fellow minister and summon a herd of media personnel to record and transmit his exchanges with the colleague.
But because he knows the presumed sex workers cannot complain, or if they complain, they cannot afford to hire lawyers to defend them, he decided whose rights he can violate.
According to Section 138 of the Penal Code, “prostitute” means a person who, in public or elsewhere, regularly or habitually holds himself or herself out as available for sexual intercourse or other sexual gratification for monetary or other material gain. Mr Minister, you cannot just lump and taint everyone a prostitute.
Even sex workers need to be treated with dignity because they are human beings. But the police has often violated the rights of these people. When they raid lodges or streets, female police officers usually force those arrested to show their faces to the camera. Police allows cameramen to capture images of those found naked!
The right to presumption of innocence, life, safety, and be treated as a human being is as important to prostitutes as it is to anyone else. No one should lose these rights because of the work they do.
Lokodo should have a comprehensive and not selective agenda of returning the country to basics. And he should do this without favouring one powerful group and posturing when he catches the small fish.
The author is the finance director of The Observer Media Limited.