Kampala. The 2016 race to State House between former prime minister Amama Mbabazi and President Museveni is picking momentum with the latter assembling 500 lawyers to counter the recent spate of arrests of his supporters.
Mr Mbabazi’s legal aides also said they will soon initiate proceedings against police officers in their individual capacities.
The development comes days after Mr Mbabazi told a meeting in London at the weekend that he will task President Museveni to come clean on the continuing nationwide detention of his supporters.
If the President falls short of this, his political ally for close to four decades told the meeting, he will find “a way of countering” the detentions which have increased since he declared his intention to run for President in 2016.
Mr Severino Twinobusingye, Mr Mbabazi’s lawyer, told Daily Monitor in an interview yesterday: “We have assembled 500 lawyers across the country to give legal representation to all victims of human rights violations.”
“We shall also institute legal proceedings against all police officers in their personal capacity for defacing our client’s posters and destroying his T-shirts,” he added.
Mr Twinobusingye also said the team has given the police 72 hours to release all Mbabazi’s supporters across the country because “they have no case to answer and they are protected by the law”.
He said they have formally petitioned police over the matter.
Confirming the development, Mr Fred Muwema, another of Mbabazi’s advocates, said: “It is true we have hired 500 lawyers across the country on retainer to handle legal matters as and when they arise in any part of the country. Four firms based in Kampala shall be at the apex of the team.”
Mr Muwema, however, declined to reveal the list, citing professional confidentiality.
He named the four firms coordinating the advocates as Mugisha and Company Advocates, Akampurira and Partners Advocates and Legal Consultants, Muwema and Company Advocates and Solicitors, and Twinobusingye Severino and Company Advocates.
Daily Monitor could not independently verify the claims of drafting at least 500 lawyers.
The Uganda Law Society has at least 2,500 registered lawyers.
Mr Mbabazi last week told a gathering at Chatham House, the UK foreign policy think tank in London, that he had raised issue with the ‘clampdown’ on his supporters during a recent meeting with Mr Museveni.
The President, he revealed, committed to order the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, to stop the countrywide arrests.
He said by Thursday, 87 of his supporters had been locked up countrywide.
Efforts to get a comment from the police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, on the arrests were futile as his known telephone number was switched off.
Gen Kayihura’s call was answered by his personal assistant who said he could not reach his boss at the time we called and by press time, our call to the IGP went unanswered.
However, Kampala Metropolitan spokesperson Patrick Onyango said none of Mr Mbabazi’s supporters are held in Kampala and surrounding areas. “We are not holding anyone in our cells at the moment. I only know of one (of Mbabazi’s supporters) in Entebbe and he was given police bond. The rest (who had been arrested in the metropolitan area) were released,” Mr Onyango said.
In a new development, Mr Mbabazi has appointed Dr Benjamin Alipanga, a lecturer of Medical Sociology at Busitema University, his official spokesperson for the 2016 campaign.
Mr Alipanga, is currently petitioning the Constitutional Court challenging President Museveni’s eligibility to contest in the 2016 election on account of his ‘advanced age’. When contacted yesterday, Mr Alipanga confirmed the development.
“Yes, that is true. I am already working...,” he said.
Who are the lead lawyers?
Severino Twinobusingye: He was thrust to the limelight after he sued the Attorney General challenging Parliament’s move to compel the former premier to resign following a barrage of oil bribery allegations. He was later awarded close to Shs13b in legal fees.
Fred Muwema: Formerly a managing partner in Muwema and Mugerwa Advocates, Mr Muwema has cut his niche in commercial law transactions. He represented tobacco farmers in West Nile in a land malt case they won against British American Tobacco.
Mugisha John Mary: Mr Mugisha was instrumental in the famous “rebel MPS” case, where he represented the NRM when it sought to evict the MPs from the August house. At the height of the Mbabazi- Museveni fall out, he withdrew from the case rather controversially.
Davis Akampurira: He is a seasoned lawyer with close ties to Mr Mbabazi. He too represented the NRM in the rebel MPs case. He is also a lawyer in the Alipanga Vs Museveni and NRM case.