The midmorning drizzle was tense. A mammoth crowd chanted, shouted and sang their way through the soggy Busabala Road. It was the last day on the 2018 calendar. From where I stood, in a distance of about 200 metres, an overtowering vehicle stood. Armoured vehicles with guns protruding from above them, lined up across the road. Armed men and women stood akimbo, holding guns, batons and plexiglass shields, as if ready to battle.
As the distance between the two parties kept decreasing, the police on the other side started moving towards an approaching Land-Cruiser TX. They placed barricades in the middle of the road, forcing the vehicle to halt instantly. The men in uniform then surrounded the car as others threw teargas in the air to disperse the crowd.
The cops broke the glass window and dragged out Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine. On his left hand, was a woman, clad in a suit. She also donned a red beret on her head. She demanded to speak on behalf of Bobi Wine, who was arrested at the moment.
The policemen angrily tossed her aside. She lost balance and fell, landing into the mud. She got up to pursue the armed men but she could only last so long in her fight.
“Kyagulanyi is my client, I must talk to you first before you arrest him. Where are you taking him?” the woman shouted. In all this, media focus was on Nubian Li, Bobi Wine’s co-musician and little attention was given to the woman.
After that incident in Busabala, Wakiso District, I met Shamim Malende, in Kamwokya and had a chat with her.
She was kind, welcoming and wore an infectious smile throughout our conversation. It is then that I learnt Malende, is an advocate, commissioner of Oaths and a Notary Public who is handling more than 56 probono cases across the country. She sits on a legal team that includes Asuman Basalirwa, Katana Benjamin, Samuel Muyizzi, Musisi George, Lewis, Wameeli Anthony and Abdallah Kiwanuka.
From a deeply legal and political family, Malende has seven years’ experience in the field.
Malende has always been by her clients’ side, especially during the riots and press conferences.
Her A-Level results in 2000 speak volumes of her brilliance after Malende emerged among the top six students in the Western region, when she scored four As in History, Economics, Islamic Education and Arabic language at Aisha Girls High School, Mbarara before joining Makerere University on government sponsorship.
Joining political advocacy
Malende has always offered probono services to clients she deemed fit. One day, Fred Nyanzi, Bobi Wine’s brother approached her after one of the court sessions and asked her to meet their embattled legislator.
“Bobi Wine introduced me to People Power’s head lawyers such as Counsel Asuman Basalirwa, Counsel Benjamin Katana and I started working with People Power legal team,” she narrates.
Nyanzi confirms this when I met him in Kamwokya, on a windy afternoon.
“She was working hard and among some of the people she was representing in court, were our own. That is why I approached her. This struggle is not for one person, we need each other,” he recalls.
“I used to do my own pro-bono work for People Power supporters and people who are not necessarily in the struggle or political circles.
I do this because I am strongly convicted about human rights protection and restoration of the rule of law,” she asserts adding, “Unity in diversity, inclusiveness of all Ugandans, irrespective of political affiliations, politics of reconciliation and forgiveness, peaceful transition of power…that is what I believe in. I joined as legal representative of the oppressed people and supporters of People Power who face arrest all the time. I later joined Bobi’s legal team and I was appointed head of legal for People Power women league.”
Anthony Wameeli, one of the lawyers on the legal team describes Malende as a “collegial” person who has challenged most of the team members to work even harder for the cause.
“She makes most of the work seem easy and being the only woman on the team, she challenges the men. She is almost the most hardworking on the team,” he says.
First experience as a lawyer
When she won her first case in 2009 at Nakawa High Court- the case which was handled by Justice Faith Mwondha, had been filed by Zam Mbekeka on behalf of two orphans whose land had been grabbed.Malende saw a bright future.
“It was a great moment to stand in court for the oppressed. We were awarded for winning the case to the tune of Shs35m but we chose to forgive Sentamu,” Malende says.
She quickly defends their decision, “He was equally needy. Since we had the land, we didn’t have to scoop more money from him again.”
Away from People Power
Born to Jamal Ahmed Malende and Jane Francis Nassuna, Malende was raised by her parents in Kawempe, a Kampala City suburb, where she got the love to work with vulnerable groups of people.
Despite the large size of the family, Malende draws inspiration from her distant relatives and brothers, who are active in political activism.
“I have been inspired by my uncles- Ali Sekabembe and the late Abdnoor Bbuye, who have been councillors in Kawempe and Makindye, respectively. My brother, counsel Hamza Sebuta, sits on the legal team of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) with counsel Yusuf Nsibambi, among others,” Malende says.
Asked about relationships, Malende says, “First things first. I wanted to focus on establishing myself professionally and to have the ability to bring food on the table.” She is, therefore, still single.
Malende was born in December 1986 in a deeply Kiganda culture and to a Muslim family. She went to Busaale Church of Uganda Primary School in 1994, proceeded to Buziga Islamic Theological Institute for O- Level and Aisha Girls High School for A-Level, before joining Makerere University for a Bachelor’s degree in law. She went to Law Development Centre between 2005 and 2006, and was thereafter an advocate in September 2008. She was appointed Commissioner of Oaths in 2014 and Notary Public in 2016.
“Fresh from university, I worked in my father’s chambers before opening my own,” Malende’s Law firm is Malende & Co. Advocates.
Nyanzi says, “Malende is young and energetic and brings to this country that soft heart that will help to transform it into the country we are yearn for. She is kind and always looking out to help the under privileged in the community.”
“I love my prsofession. My family is deeply rooted in law and politics and this partly explains why I have turned out the person I am today,” she says adding: “The Malende family comprises six other lawyers and all other professions such as teachers, journalists, and medical persons, under one roof,”she concludes with pride.
Some of the cases she is handling
A case involving Andrew Mukasa, alias Bajjo of Bajjo- promotions at Buganda Road on offensive communication and inciting violence.
Bobi’s producer Dan Magic’s case at Jinja Road police of inciting violence. “I secured his release on police bond.”
Dan Magicwas arrested with four others, when Bobi was given bail in OTT case via video conferencing.
Bobi’s brother, Dennis Ssentamu, has a case at Old Kampala police station of inciting violence. “I secured his release on police bond and he now reports there as investigations go on. He was arrested during OTT protests.”
Deputy Mayor of Entebbe Richard Ssekyondo and seven others are being tried by Entebbe court for allegedly unlawful assembly and inciting violence after being found in a meeting wearing red People Power berets. “The matter is in court. We secured court bail for all of them,” she says.
Twelve accused persons led by Nsubuga are being tried at Mengo court for allegedly inciting violence. They were arrested protesting the manner in which Bobi and other Ugandans are brutalised under police detention. They are out on court bail and hearing proceeds at Mengo court.
More cases are at CPS and Kira Road Police Station.