An international lawyer acting on behalf of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, might not represent him in Uganda’s courts after government reportedly declared him a persona non grata.
Mr Robert Amsterdam is one of the lawyers who has come up to defend Mr Kyagulanyi against the treason charges government slapped on him on Thursday.
Mr Amsterdam’s role is supposed to be technical, advisory and do research.
In diplomacy, a persona non grata is a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country’s government.
The government claims that Mr Kyagulanyi, who is currently remanded in Gulu Prison, is one of the suspects who allegedly pelted stones at one of the vehicles in the presidential convoy, smashing its hind screen.
When contacted yesterday, the spokesperson of the Directorate of Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Jacob Siminyu, who said he is on leave, referred this newspaper to the Internal Affairs ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Benon Mutambi.
A text message we sent to Dr Mutambi remained unanswered by press time.
However, the State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Obiga Kania, said he is not aware if Mr Amsterdam is not welcome to Uganda.
“If the person [declared persona non grata] is a foreigner,” Mr Kania said, “it would involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Our attempts to get comment from the Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa and State minister for International Cooperation Henry Oryem Okello were futile.
Mr Medard Sseggona, one of Mr Kyagulanyi’s lawyers, said if Uganda has declared Mr Amsterdam persona non grata, it is a primitive decision, which would indicate the government is panicking.
“[It would imply] the [government] thinks he, Mr Amsterdam, can only be useful if he is in Kampala. We can work with any lawyer across the globe,” Mr Sseggona said.
On Saturday, Mr Amsterdam, through an article titled ‘Uganda’s brutal treatment of MPs is enabled by global indifference’, which appeared in the UK’s media, the Guardian online, called for visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for committing human rights abuses.
“These types of individualised sanctions are a very effective deterrent against future attacks on human rights, while limiting the collateral damage to innocent citizens,” Mr Amsterdam wrote.
Meanwhile, in a tweet on Saturday, Mr Nicholas Opiyo, another of Mr Kyagulanyi’s lawyers, said armed and plain-clothed men had [at about 3am] ordered [Henry Komakech], who is also part of Mr Kyagulanyi’s legal team, to open his door, an order Mr Komakech ignored.
Relatedly, the Saturday Vision reported that Mr Kyagulanyi’s bodyguard Eddy Ssebuufu has been arrested.
Both the army and the police have distanced themselves from Mr Ssebuufu’s arrest.
Related, there are reports that Mr Kyagulanyi’s personal disc jockey, David Bwanika, was arrested.
Mr Robert Amsterdam (left) is a Canadian international lawyer of the law firm Amsterdam & Partners, with offices in Washington, DC and London. His law firm is frequently sought after for its unique practice areas which explore synergies between public international law, international criminal law, and political advocacy.