(Aug. 30, 2010) On August 25, 2010, a five-judge panel of the Ugandan Constitutional Court, by a unanimous decision, declared the provisions of the Ugandan Penal Code Act (§§39 & 40) on sedition unconstitutional and therefore void. The Government plans to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court, the highest court in Uganda. (Sheila Naturinda, Government Appeals Sedition Ruling, DAILY MONITOR (Aug. 27, 2010), http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/997784/-/x4jpkd/-/index.
The challenge was instituted in 2005 by the East African Media Institute, a Kenya-based media training college, and Andrew Mwenda, a journalist charged with inciting public hatred against the person of the head of state for stating during a live radio program that the Ugandan government was partly to blame for the death of the late Dr. John Garang (id.). Garang, the former leader of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army who briefly served as Sudan's first Vice President, died in July 2005 while travelling aboard a Ugandan presidential helicopter that crashed (Gray Phombeah, Obituary: John Garang, BBC NEWS (Aug. 3, 2005), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2134220.stm).
Mwenda, who currently faces 25 criminal charges, 18 of which are sedition charges, expressed his satisfaction with the ruling of he Constitutional Court. He stated, “I commend the court for having exercised its independence and struck sedition out of our law books. The law did not affect us (media) only but the entire country.” (ALERT: Constitutional Court Nullifies Law on Sedition, IFFX (Aug. 25, 2010), http://www.ifex.org/uganda/2010/08/25/sedition_law_null/.)
The definition of a seditious intention under the Ugandan law includes “an intention – to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of the President, the Government as by law established or the Constitution … .” (Penal Code Act of 1950, §39, VI LAWS OF UGANDA, Cap. 120 (rev. ed. 2000), available at http://www.ulii.org/ug/legis/consol_act/pca195087/). This offense is punishable on conviction with a maximum of five years of imprisonment (and a seven-year maximum term for repeat offenders) and/ or a fine of up to UGX$50,000 (about US$22) (id. at §40).