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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 18:05 GMT
Once a Villain, always a villain?




The former mayor of Kampala, Al Hajji Nasser Sebaggala has just been welcomed back home in Uganda after being deported by the US authorities.

News and Information for Africa
He had served a prison sentence in the States after being convicted on multiple counts of fraud.

Yet, rather than returning home quietly, as a disgraced villain , he was given a hero's welcome in the capital, Kampala by the thousands who had voted him mayor in 1988. The former mayor on his part announced on his return, that he is now thinking of standing for President.

How does his case compare with US heavyweight boxer, Mike Tyson a convicted rapist who was received as a hero by some in Britain.

So what do you think... should convicted criminals be forgiven and allowed to resume a normal life after serving their sentence or should they be ostracised forever?




Your Reaction

I believe that everyone should be allowed to make a mistake. However, in Britain, petty criminals re-offend over and over again, and are sentenced to prison and then are out again within months. I believe there should be tougher sentences for re-offenders. At the moment the potential punishment is not at all severe and does not act as a deterrent for criminals.
Charlotte Newsome, UK

Murderers should be hanged, all others having done their time in jail must be given the chance to start again.
B Lawson, Tanzania



Most people break some laws at some stage in their lives, or they tell lies. Are politicians who are convicted of crime, serve their time, then return to politics any worse than those who aren't caught and continue with their careers?
Tom, Australia
It's all a matter of degree isn't it? Most people break some laws at some stage in their lives, or they tell lies. Are politicians who are convicted of crime, serve their time, then return to politics any worse than those who aren't caught and continue with their careers? The emphasis, today, is on money, no one is immune, and I do not believe that there is anyone with access to easy wealth not dipping their fingers in the till. Most honest people are at the coal-face, that is the only way society can function, we can afford the sleazy rich and powerful, because they are small in numbers, it is the masses that have to be kept basically honest and working hard for crumbs. As long as the status quo isn't upset, what does it matter?
Tom, Australia

As a human rights activist, I believe that people after serving their prison sentences should be given opportunity to rebuild their lives through participation in public life. After all, prisons are supposed to have reformed them to live normal lives once again.
Innocent Chukwuma, Nigeria

I believe everyone makes mistake more or less, from small wrong-doing to terminal crime. We can't reverse what they did, we can only rebuild upon those mistakes. That's why I believe we should unite in changing their behaviour, in helping to rebuild their own lives. But I don't believe we can improve our lives by criminalising the criminal.
Yin Min Kyi, USA



Any person that commits a crime and has paid for it in agreeable terms should be allowed to integrate into the human society
Michael U Adikwu, Germany
Any person that commits a crime and has paid for it in agreeable terms should be allowed to integrate into the human society. After all we as humans are full of mistakes. Secondly, what exactly is the weight of an offence? Many people who caused deaths of thousands of people are leaders, even presidents, of their countries today. It is only the less fortunate that are often become children of circumstances in the negative sense.
Michael U Adikwu, Germany

I am so buffled to hear that Sebbagala wants to contest for president in next year's elections. Of course the so-called hero's welcome that he got was from the same category of people like him. It is a shame for us to see that a person involved in such fraudulent business should even make an attempt to be a leader of a country. I bet you Uganda will have gone back 35 years in history. I still think the majority of Ugandans cannot allow a former criminal to be elected to the highest office in the land.
Hilary Binta, USA

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Of course criminals should be given a second chance. But not a third, fourth, fifth so on and so on...
Justin, UK in US
The old concept of hell was that if you sinned, even once, you were forever damned. This has carried across into modern society's attitude towards convicted criminals. The truth, however, is that to err is human. We were made to make mistakes; that is our nature for that is how we learn. If we were unable to atone for our sins, we would all be eternally condemned for we are all sinners.
Simon Cameron, UK

To believe that a man, who commits an offence, or insults the laws of society, will spend the rest of his life abstaining from goodness, redemption, or any other quality that would reconstruct his character, is terribly wrong. As humans, we are all sinners, our flesh compels us to sin. Therefore, does one sin warrant a lifetime of evil and moral corruption? No, just as one crime does not automatically push a person to fulfil a life of crime. There are people who choose to make poor decisions, sometimes repeatedly, but that only proves that they are bad decision-makers, or are wholly lacking in common sense. Therefore, because a man has chosen to offend his peers, constituents, community, or country, does not necessarily imply that his character has been eternally besmirched.
Santino DelCastillo, USA

Give Sebaggala a break. Go for the true monsters who have bank accounts everywhere and are responsible for endless wars and genocide's going on all over the continent. I still don't believe Tyson is a rapist, sorry!
Frank Okot, Canada

To convict someone of a crime requires finding the person guilty of the offence after trial in a court of law. Prison term is punishment for the crime committed. If one serves his or her jail term, he or she should be re-absorbed into the society - period.
Stanley Uzochukwu, Nigeria

I think the villain should be given just one more chance so that he or she knows the error of his or her ways, and then has the opportunity to take the second chance life has given it. Statistics shows that capital punishment does not decrease the crime rate. The villains might try harder the second time to prove himself or herself, and good might be the result. The villain is already weary of being jailed for so long, maybe some compassion would lead him or her on the right road.
Selena, Hong Kong



A villain should be given a chance to redeem his deeds; although there should be a tangible repentance for the crimes he has committed.
Asim Irshad Chattha, Pakistan
A villain should be given a chance to redeem his deeds; although there should be a tangible repentance for the crimes he has committed. This would be cynical to take the villain for being habitual. Let there be a second thought given, room would always be there for a positive change; given another chance would do much. Some brainwashing and righteous inculcation would bring miracles. Let their be psychologists, playing their part.
Asim Irshad Chattha, Pakistan

There is always a second chance except for crimes in which the accused are condemned to death like murder. Otherwise, first time offenders in most crimes should be accorded mercy and/or forgiven with the hope that they would reform themselves and become better citizens in the future.
OB Silla, Gambian in USA

It depends on the crime committed. Crimes such as paedophilia, rape, incest, murder, terrorism should be punishable by death. The purpose of prisons is to punish and they are currently not harsh enough on their inmates. FBI statistics state that most criminals can not be rehabilitated. Therefore, it is unwise to give hardened criminals a second chance in life; they will revert to their crooked ways.
Jeff, USA

With the exception of the likes of Brady and Hindley, I think that a person should have a chance to rehabilitate themselves after they have served their sentence. However, I also believe that the jury should be told of criminal's previous convictions when they are in court being tried. Everyone else knows these, Judge, Lawyers, Ushers, Police yet every possible means is taken to prevent the jury knowing although this is surely a very important factor in deciding the accused guilt. Let's end this farce and give the jury ALL the facts.
Steve Foley, England



It depends on the crime committed and the age and record of the offender.
Dave, USA
It depends on the crime committed and the age and record of the offender. Obviously a young offender who committed a non-violent crime should be given a second chance. At the same time a career criminal or someone who commits violent crimes must certainly be held under at least some degree of suspicion.
Dave, USA

I am Kenyan currently in America. Africa has suffered in the hands of criminal leadership. It's not strange for Sebaggala to stake a claim in Uganda's presidency. Africans see such criminals whip by in limousines daily. Perhaps the difference is that the man on the sidewalk has somehow perceived the former Mayor of Kampala as one capable of sharing the spoils. However, concerning convicts, I believe they should undergo a period of probation in society in which they are accessed and affirmed changed.
Joab Zephaniah Magara, Boston, USA

It does depend on the crime, the worse the crime the less chance the criminal will change. For the others a rough rule of thumb is that 80% of the crimes are committed by 25% of the criminals. This is why the three strikes your out laws are lowering the crime rates.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA



Once a man has served his sentence he is as free as any other man.
Peter, South Africa
Once a man has served his sentence he is as free as any other man. That he has been convicted is undeniable and must be considered before placing him in a similar position. I think that a person may change fundamentally after severe punishment (and a stint in jail certainly qualifies). However this does not mean everybody who has been to jail becomes a saint or need to be treated as such.
Peter, South Africa

For some criminals, a second chance can make the difference between permanent rehabilitation and a life of felony. A good example would be an impressionable 18-year-old who fell in with the wrong crowd. However, a 50 year old lag with a lifetime of convictions and Dr Harold Shipman are clearly not good candidates for such benevolent treatment.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)



Although I am having a hard time comparing rape to fraud; I do believe that a fraudulent president will undoubtedly result in the rape of Uganda.
CLOJ, US
Forgiveness can only be given when the offender asks for it. But it seems to me that in a culture in which the media creates our heroes for us, villains are at an advantage. How many of these people have actually come out, expressed remorse for their offences and asked for forgiveness? Instead the media portrays them as some sort of heroes because they have gotten away with socially deviant behaviour. Until they start asking for forgiveness, they should not expect any.
Felix Epie, USA

Surely whether a person is re-integrated into society or not is entirely down to whether they have shown remorse and accepted what they have done is wrong.
Martin, UK

If someone has served their time they should be forgiven if possible. Tyson, however, shows no remorse, denies his guilt and blames everyone but himself. If he doesn't think he committed a crime then he will probably do the same thing again. Some crimes are too terrible to ever forgive - like serial murders. A one-off event could possibly happen to anyone and should not be held against a person indefinitely, but calculated and planned systematic crimes which are repeated are another story entirely.
Kate, UK

It must surely depend on the crime. There is a case for barring certain criminals from certain activities even though they have served their sentences (e.g. allowing a paedophile to work in a children's home), but as a general rule I would support a culture of forgiveness if it was properly respected by the criminal. Having said that I also believe that a life sentence should mean life.
Duncan, UK

It is rather awful that the Ugandan government did not even try to look into the case. I mean, if it is really true that this guy is a fraudster, I wonder what he would do when he is elected president. I for one am praying he does not "sell" the country to any concerned mafia.
Chux Ojukwu, UK



Society is far too liberal and the punishments convicts receive are far too soft.
Mike, England
It is my view that the more severe crimes such as Murder, Manslaughter and Rape should be punishable with the Death Penalty when there is indisputable evidence available, such as DNA tests.
Society is far too liberal and the punishments convicts receive are far too soft. Reports of prisoners having Televisions, Gymnasiums and other luxuries that many hard working people can't afford sickens me. These prisoners should have bread and water only and should live with only Rats for company! Then they would come out and NEVER commit crimes again.
Mike, England



Look at the actor Leslie Grantham, for example. A former convicted murderer, he is now a major TV star.
Mark Verth, UK
The whole point of a prison sentence is to make the offender see the error of their ways. If we continue to treat the released offender as outside society then this will only encourage them back to their old ways. With the right support they can give something back to society - look at the actor Leslie Grantham, for example. A former convicted murderer, he is now a major TV star. Give people a chance.
Mark Verth, UK

Surely it depends on whether or not they have paid the price for their crimes. Society has laid down punishments for crimes which need to be served. Mike Tyson served the punishment he was given by a judge in full possession of the facts. Once served, Tyson has 'paid his debt' and must surely revert to his previous position in society - whether that be street cleaner or hero.
Whether or not we should be hero-worshipping a violent boxer is an entirely separate issue, as is whether or not the punishments set by Society are adequate or fitting. 'Dirty Den' (Leslie Grantham) became an idol for many any he cold-bloodedly murdered an innocent taxi driver. You can't reinstate a particular person in Society because it suits you and reject another who committed and was punished for a lesser crime.
Jenni, UK

We all make mistakes in our lives. To be able to forgive is truly a great thing to do. I would leave to the victims to decide if they are willing to forgive.
Mr N, UK

Ostracised forever? Seems a bit harsh to me. I think this is a tricky question though. There's no doubt about it, some people change, and can genuinely come back as good members of the community, whereas some people do not.
It seems odd to me that we can say to someone one day (when in prison) that they are a bad person, and the following day (when released) that they are a good person. I think each person should be taken for their merits, and we should try to accept people back again wherever possible.
Tristan O'Dwyer, England

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See also:
08 Feb 00 |  Africa
Fraudster mayor eyes Uganda's presidency


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