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“Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?” Who Watches the Watchmen?

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Mutesi Sandra

Step into the enigmatic world of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”—a Latin riddle that resonates through centuries, asking, “Who watches the watchmen themselves!?”

These haunting words, attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal, delve deep into the heart of governance, integrity, and accountability.

Imagine a world where the sentinels of justice themselves need oversight, join me on a journey of philosophical reflection as we ponder the guardians who guard us.

In the labyrinth of democratic systems, where power can be intoxicating, mechanisms like an independent judiciary, a free press, and oversight bodies are erected as beacons of hope, but here’s the twist, even these guardians can slip from virtue’s grasp, becoming puppets to manipulation and corruption.

The phrase serves as a stark reminder that eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty, and the watchdogs too require watching.


Let’s venture into the heart of Uganda’s constitutional tapestry, focusing on the 1995 Constitution. As the preamble unfolds before us, it paints a vivid mosaic of Uganda’s destiny.

Crafted with eloquence and insight, this document bears the indelible mark of those who wrestled with a tumultuous past to birth a brighter future.

In their words, we sense their unwavering commitment to a nation that rose from the ashes of tyranny and exploitation. “WE THE PEOPLE OF UGANDA: RECALLING our history… COMMITTED to building a better future … DO HEREBY, in …adopt, enact and give to ourselves and our posterity, this Constitution…”

Part XXVI of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy unravels the threads of accountability. The declaration that “All power belongs to the people” echoes a profound truth.


The guardians in their lofty positions owe allegiance not to their titles but to the people.

The paradox is spellbinding – the Bosses aren’t the true Bosses, and those who hold the reins aren’t just Bosses, but mere custodians of power.

So, how does the vigilant citizenry uphold this delicate balance? When the cacophony of misinformed voices overshadows principled decisions, the guardians falter.

In a world where untruths masquerade as facts, and integrity is misconstrued as disloyalty, the frailties of novices and self-seekers emerge. We stand at a crossroads, with the onus on us to ensure that those we empower with authority serve us faithfully.

The clarion call of the hour is for the citizenry to transcend mediocrity. We must meticulously inspect the service our guardians offer – it should not be a privilege reserved for the elite but a boon bestowed upon the nation.


The theft from the needy orchestrated by the very protectors sworn to defend them should not escape the scrutiny of fellow guards.

Only by challenging conventional thinking and shunning ignorance can we erase the danger of inaction and the peril of unwise action.

Chinese say, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grains. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees, but if you want a hundred years of prosperity, grow people.”

The zenith of our responsibility is to metamorphose into vigilant overseers, the real Bosses.

The scales of accountability must tip in favor of the people. Our resistance to compromise and embrace of principled thinking will etch an enduring legacy.

Mutesi Sandra

The Author is a second-year law student at Nkumba University, Entebbe, Uganda.

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