We went to a world famous restaurant called Wandie’s. It is traditional African fare served buffet style. I was not close enough to the front of the line to hear what each of the dishes available was. This did not serve me well when I ultimately took a big bite of liver. Yeesh. I slept all the way back home feeling a bit poorly.
I think I got a relatively full night of sleep. It’s amazing how good I feel after I have my tea and breakfast (so far the only meals that have really pleased me). More classes today and then the evening is supposed to be free.
I had a bit of a debate with one of the lecturers today regarding what makes it the case that people in particular countries have respect and reverence for their constitutions. I have myself sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The South African Constitution is not even 20-years-old. It’s the most liberal constitution in the world. It’s interesting, and frankly awesome, that they have canonized human dignity. There is no death penalty. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited.
Although this is a very young democracy, the precepts and respect for the rule of law has taken root. I am curious about this; that is, how is it that you can get virtually an entire country behind a particular foundational document in such short order? I want to know why the Uganda Constitution appears not to be worth the paper it is printed on. Our debate doesn’t lead to any good conclusions for me. That said, I had a conversation with Laurel afterward which was helpful but depressing. Her opinion is that there simply is no rule of law in Uganda. It is a traditional tribal society that is historically very comfortable simply having one strong man in charge. What’s more, the constitution they have is a function of colonial influence. The British said, “Here, you need this document.” It’s a western construct that just doesn’t resonate with average people. Naturally this explains why we keep winning the Kwoyelo case on constitutional grounds and he is nevertheless still languishing in prison. And nobody really seems to care.
I went out in the evening with Mario and some others for drinks and dinner. I decided on pasta this time. Much better than liver.
Tomorrow is going to be the most important day for me while I am in South Africa. I have my meeting with Bonnie and later I will be sitting with Arthur Chaskalson for dinner. Chaskalson was Nelson Mandela’s attorney and pretty much drafted the South African Constitution. He is one of the main figures in shaping this new country. This is my shot to get the support of these heavy hitters to start building our human rights network in Africa.
Wish me luck.