Youthful lawyer Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka is a jolly man who often breaks into loud laughter when amused. He occasionally chuckles in court when a joke is cracked or when a hard point is driven home.
About a month ago, he was in the media for having dared to speak his mind as one of the petitioners in the just concluded age limit case. This was because he accused Justice Elizabeth Musoke, one of the justices on the panel of five justices of having had a fruitful relationship with Minister Hillary Onek and the Deputy Attorney General, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana who led the government’s legal team.
He argued that since the judge had the alleged fruitful relationship with duo officials, she would be biased in deciding the matter in favour of government.
He went on to demand that the judge disqualifies herself from the five-judge panel led by Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.
Mabirizi is no stranger to controversy. He first came to the lime light in 2015 after he dared to file a case against Buganda Kingdom on behalf of the Kkobe clan.
This he says was because there were masqueraders who wanted to disorganise their clan leadership and also grab their land whose wranglers started during the colonial days. “This was the first case I filed against Mengo for poor management of land issues before the High Court, Civil Division,” says Mr Male.
His first case
In 2016, he says everyone was crying about the activities of the Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II of illegally collecting land fees (obusulu) through the Buganda Land Board.
He says he decided to take on the Kabaka since he had declared some of his subjects as tenants and that they should get leases if they still wanted to continue staying on his land.
Mabirizi went on to explain that two of his grandfathers are buried on that piece of land and that if the same land was leased to them as the Kabaka had suggested, then upon the lapse of the lease, their remains would have to be relocated, a move he said he had to fight.
“He [Kabaka] is a trustee of the Baganda people and is supposed to hold property on our behalf. It was erroneous for him to turn around to say we are his tenants. We all along knew we owned our land and were not tenants. That is why I took him on,” he explains
Why sue the Kabaka?
When asked why he as a subject of the Kabaka dared to sue his king, the 31-year-old boldly said, majority of the lawyers had feared to represent him in court and yet he had to fight for his rights others affected by the Kabaka’s actions.
“Despite the injustices going on, most of the lawyers had feared to take him [Kabaka] on as they feared to lose business from Baganda clients. That is why I took him on myself,” he notes
“I was safer since I was not in legal practice and hence I could not lose any client. Court has since ordered the Kabaka to produce bank statements, land titles and tenants registered. That was ordered on May 6, 2017 by Justice Patricia Basaza Wasswa.” He adds
This newspaper understands that the Court of Appeal has set May 31 to hear the appeal filed by the Kabaka as he opposes the orders of the High Court.
A shot at the age limit case
Mabirizi never ceased to grab the lime light. Early this year, he petitioned the Constitutional Court as an individual, expressing his dissatisfaction with the amendment of Article 102 (b) that scrapped the upper age limit of 75 years and the lower age limit of 35 years for anyone to contest for the presidency.
Explaining why he choose to file the petition as an individual, Mabirizi says he does not trust anyone, even the opposition MPs, to effectively file a petition on his behalf.
He adds that since the first amendment of the Constitution in 2005 that resulted into the scrapping of the presidential term limits, he has bitter memories and that when this second amendment was done, he had to personally challenge it before courts of law.
“Since my secondary school days, I have lived in Kampala. In 2005, I was in Senior Five when the Constitution was amended and I was very annoyed. One of the things that influenced me to study law was the violence that was being meted out against the citizens,” he avers, adding: “Personally, I do not like to see the rule of law broken. The violence that ensued at Parliament during the amendment of the Article 102 (b) and when I compared it with what former president Obote did, I decided to bring a constitutional petition to challenge this.”
In the process of arguing his petition, he took many by storm because his submissions were well researched, he was well composed and he did a good job of convincing the judges to agree with his point of view.
His move to have Justice Elizabeth Musoke disqualify herself from age limit case
Explaining why he decided to ask justice Musoke to disqualify herself from the panel selected to hear the age limit petition, he says that from his childhood, he has had an open mind.
He notes that when he goes to court, that court has to be independent so that when the decision is made even if it is not in his favour, he will wholly accept it. “I am an open-minded person and I do not want to proceed in any environment where I have some reservations. I will only accept the outcome of the court when it was independent and fair,” he states
However, when the hearing commenced in Mbale early last month, he did not raise the matter of the conflict of interest by the judge to disqualify herself from the panel.
His attempt to block three newly appointed judges
Two months ago, Mabirizi caused panic among the then three newly appointed judges of the Court of Appeal and one of the High Court after he petitioned Parliament seeking to block their appointment. The appointees were; Stephen Musota, Christopher Madrama and Alex Macky.
He had cited among others, minimum standards, incompetence, compromise, misbehavior and misconduct as the grounds for blocking the three judges. However, the MPs on the Appointments Committee of Parliament, did not find merit in his complaints and went ahead and approved the judges. They have since taken oath and commenced work.