By Max Patrico Ocaido
Stella Nyanzi, human rights activist, academic and former Research Fellow has given dissenting views on the proposed Mental Health Bill.
The Bill which was first tabled in 2004 intends to "provide for care and treatment for persons with mental illness, at primary health centres and ensure that persons with mental illness are enabled to seek treatment voluntarily."
While appearing before the parliamentary health committee, Nyanzi revealed that whereas it is long overdue for government to consider this Bill, it has been brought now to target opposition members.
Clause 10 (2) of the proposed Bill states that "where a police officer who arrests a person for a criminal act has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person arrested has a mental illness, he or she shall keep the person in custody and take them for treatment."
Nyanzi says that this particular clause is irrelevant and aimed at targeting opposition members by arresting them on grounds that they are mentally ill.
"This bill is empowering police to come and arrest anybody without a warrant, so, think through what you are saying because today, it may be me but tomorrow it will be you. As you all aware, I was diagnosed as a mentally ill person by CID but when did CID study psychiatry?" Nyanzi said.
She added, "Laws in Uganda can be used to oppress and abuse people just as much as they can be used to legislate properly for the country. Police will use this clause to target people like me, Dr. Besigye, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and those who are opposed to government and will take us to Butabika saying we are mentally ill."
She added that government has shelved this Bill for over a decade, adding even the MPs who are now processing the Bill at committee level are mentally ill and could soon or later be victims of this Bill if passed.
"A lot of Ugandans including many of you in this room have got mental illness. One day these laws will come and bite your own. All of you have got different forms of mental illnesses here. Just recently, you (MPs) were brutalized mentally in this House and you now need psychiatric attention. You may think that you are drafting the bill for Stella Nyanzi and those at Butabika but you are doing this for me and you who are implicated in this," Nyanzi said.