Shs13b given to me for Mbabazi case was peanuts, says lawyer
Posted Monday, March 11 2013 at 02:00
The country was last month yanked by news that court had awarded Shs12.9 billion, almost twice the entire Judiciary’s annual wage bill, to a little-known lawyer
The country was last month yanked by news that court had awarded Shs12.9 billion, almost twice the entire Judiciary’s annual wage bill, to a little-known lawyer who blocked Parliament from forcing PM Amama Mbabazi, Ministers Sam Kutesa and Hilary Onek to ‘step aside’. The trio was accused of taking bribes from foreign oil firms. Registrar Erias Kisawuzi curiously read the December 24, 2012 Constitutional Court ruling almost two months later. Petitioner Saverino Twinobusingye, 43, says the money awarded to him is “peanuts” and scoffs at the job of RDC, which he was offered in Kabale, as for ‘grassing’ individuals. Both Mbabazi and State House paid Twinobusingye’s fees, and he says he will do anything to defend the PM and President Museveni. He told our reporter, Tabu Butagira, in an interview that those upset by the Shs12.9 billion billing can go and hang, before berating the deputy Attorney General Frederic Ruhindi and Commercial Court Judge Singh Choudry.
Could you just walk me through whom Severino Twinobusingye is?
I am a lawyer, a philosopher and an Advocate of the High Court of the Uganda. I come from Kinkizi West constituency, Nyamirama Sub-county. Before I came into legal practice, I worked as a Nutrition and Early Child Development projects manager for Rukungiri and Kanungu district.
I worked with the Electoral Commission as election management officer for eight and a-half years and left civil service employment in 2011. From January 1, 2012, I began legal practice by setting up my own chambers. Besides, I have been a politician; was the district youth councillor for Nyamirama Sub-county and I have been an NRM mobiliser since 1992.
After the 1996 elections, President Museveni offered me a State House scholarship. For the last 20 years, I have worked very closely with Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, and he paid my tuition at high school through the Amama Mbabazi Foundation.
What really motivated you to file Constitutional Petition 47 of 2011 challenging a parliamentary resolution requiring Mbabazi and two other ministers to step aside over allegations of receiving bribes from foreign oil companies?
This was connected to my background of political involvement with Mr Mbabazi. I have always voted and mobilised for him and President Museveni. So, what motivated me was that I saw Mbabazi and the President being ferociously attacked by Parliament, and my immediate instinct as a lawyer was: How could this happen?
I thought that I had a responsibility to contribute to our jurisprudence. And the moment Mbabazi and Gen. Museveni are attacked, at that point I cease to be a spectator; I become an active participant to defend them because they are my leaders to whom I owe my allegiance. When they are attacked and threatened with evictions from their respective positions, I also me feel that my voting rights have been rigged and, therefore, I must move to defend them.
The infamous October 2011 parliamentary recall for oil debate was a mob justice at its worst, violating cardinal principles of civil discourse and civility. It required somebody very courageous to go to court and stop this miscarriage of justice and impunity of some members of the 9th Parliament.
MPs Gerald Karuhanga and Theodore Ssekikubo, who forged the documents [presented] in Parliament for that infamous debate, must face criminal prosecution.
And by now they should have internalised what the Constitutional Court judges noted in their ruling; that parliamentary immunity is not absolute. So, if you are on the floor of the House debating and in the process you commit a crime, you cannot say you committed that crime under a privilege and, therefore, police cannot arrest you. I have given them a notice!
Are you going to sue them?
Yes, I am going to prosecute them privately.
For what offence?
For forgery, uttering false documents and theft.
Did either Mbabazi or the President prod you to file the constitutional petition in clothe to the then embattled ministers?
Neither of them approached me. Mbabazi and the President knew about the petition through the press. In fact, when I filed this constitutional petition, I went to Mbabazi because I wanted him to sign an affidavit for me and he told me he could not.
He told me in very plain language that, Severino, this is politics, leave it and I am not ready to give you my affidavit. I left him. My motive to go to court was also to set a legal precedent and ensure constitutionalism and the rule of law is respected.
As I pointed out earlier, when the Movement is threatened, I don’t have to wait for orders, I will act because I think I understand the Movement philosophy. The documents MP Karuhanga tendered in Parliament had allegations against the person of President Museveni: that he personally received bribes. So my understanding as a lawyer, was if you set a precedent of chasing Mbabazi, Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa and (then Energy Minister) Hilary Onek from office, the next one was going to be the Head of State. I understood that Uganda was not prepared for the cost of overthrowing a government in a manner that was not envisaged under the Constitution. I wouldn’t have accepted it.