Lawyers’ body defends self in private arbitration case

Tuesday June 11 2019



KAMPALA. The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has asked Court to dismiss with costs a case filed by a section of lawyers who are challenging the legality of its private arbitration and mediation center, a privately owned company which they say it is operating without the consent of the members.
Through its lawyers, ULS claims the case by city lawyers; Mr Nelson Walusimbi and Mr Andrew Wambi does not disclose a cause of action, barred by law and an abuse of the court process.

The lawyers sued ULS and the International Centre for Arbitration and Mediation in Kampala (ICAMEK), a limited liability company seeking for court declarations that the lawyers professional body acted outside its statutory mandate hence acted illegally by subscribing as a member of ICAMEK.

The plaintiffs also want the court to declare that ULS and ICAMEK’s agenda of setting up an alternative dispute resolution judicial practice and administration that is parallel to one established by the government through Statutes for public utility and satisfaction is illegal.
According to the plaintiffs, ICAMEK a company limited by guarantee was incorporated by the Uganda Registration of Services Bureau on July 26, 2018 with Uganda Law Society (ULS) in conjunction with Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA) as subscribers.

But in its defence, ULS contends that the ULS Act empowers the elected council to exercise all the powers of the society.
“Following the Banking and law workshop held on March 23, 2018 by the ULS and Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA), it was resolved that ICAMEK be established to provide efficient dispute resolutions through arbitration and mediation to unlock over Shs729,600,000,000 which is tied up in unresolved disputes in the courts,” the ULS states.

The ULS contends that ICAMEK was established basing on the powers entrusted upon its council and upon consultation with its members that resolved that ULS and UBA establish a center for advancement of alternative dispute resolution.
According to the ULS defence, the activities of ICAMEK are lawful and that through patty autonomy where any person or group of people are at liberty to engage ICAMEK as their institution of choice for resolving their disputes which are arbitral in law.

“Contrary to the plaintiffs’ allegations that the second defendant (ICAMEK) is a court, the objectives for which it was established are to promote the use of domestic and international arbitration and mediation mechanisms and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, to provide institutional alternative dispute resolution services including appointment of arbitrators, mediators, adjudicators and other experts and to provide training of professionals in arbitration and mediation,” ULS defence reads in part.

However, through their lawyers, the complainants allege that ULS’ subscription and or formation of a company limited by guarantee is illegal and that notwithstanding the use its seal in any of the activities of the company to which it is not bound by any incidental transactions or deeds.

“The plaintiffs (two lawyers) state that neither the membership of the Uganda Law Society nor Uganda Law Society Council can or could by consensus and or consent modify or waive the restrictions imposed on the 1st defendant by the statute,” the reads in part court documents.
It is alleged that the objects of ICAMEK as they relate to the administration and dispensation of justice by a private company are unconstitutional and thereby illegal.