Law society petitioned over Museveni’s directive to CJ

Security operatives whisk away ex-Nsangi municipal mayor Abdul Kiyimba after prayers at Old Kampala national mosque last year. He blames Muslim leaders for allegedly sellIing Muslim property. PHOTO /ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni was concerned about a court order to have a national mosque among the prime properties that were to be attached and auctioned.

A section of concerned lawyers of the Uganda Law Society (ULS), has petitioned their president, Mr Bernard Oundo, to call for an extraordinary meeting to discuss what they call the attack on the independence of the Judiciary.

Among the scenarios that the concerned lawyers want the extraordinary meeting to discuss is President Museveni’s letter to Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo on the attachment of the Muslim property including the national mosque in Old Kampala.

“We, the undersigned members of the Uganda Law Society, concerned with a letter dated December 2023, from His Excellency the President, addressed to the Chief Justice giving directions on the conduct of a court matter, do hereby, petition for an extraordinary general meeting of the Uganda Law Society under Section 16 ... to be held within 14 days from the deposit of this petition with the secretary of the Uganda Law Society,” reads in part the January 8 petition led by Mr Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde.

So far, 14 concerned lawyers have signed up to cause the summoning of an extraordinary meeting though the law demands signatures of 15 lawyers.

President Museveni was concerned about a court order to have a national mosque among the prime properties that were to be attached and auctioned.

“…However, I was most surprised to read in Mufti Mubajje’s letter that among the Moslem properties to be affected is the national mosque at Old Kampala, really!!. What sane person, let alone a judge, can make such orders? How can a mosque or church be attached for debts carelessly entered into by officials of that faith?” Mr Museveni said in the letter to the Chief Justice.

He added: “I, therefore, request you to review this matter yourself and see how to restore sanity. His Eminence Mubajje alleges other examples of misconduct and collusion. You should study all those, what, however, provoked me was the audacity of attaching the national mosque. The NRM freedom fighters and the government they head, cannot be associated with sick logic.”

The then looming attachment of the Muslim property followed a court order, arising from a protracted land transaction in which the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) allegedly sold land in Sembabule District to businessman Justus Kyabahwa at Shs3.5b. However, the deal was not successful and the businessman has since asked UMSC to pay Shs19b or else attach key property including the Old Kampala mosque. 

Following President Museveni’s letter to the Chief Justice, the Court of Appeal issued an order temporarily, stopping the said attachment and sale of  Muslim property.

However, lawyers  want the President to respect courts of law. 

“We are alarmed by the failure of the governing Council of the Uganda Law Society to issue a public statement on the matters in this petition as a customary; and the failure by the president of the Uganda Law Society to heed calls to issue a public statement on the matter as a statutory imperative,” The concerned lawyers wrote.

Article 128 (2) of the 1995 Constitution states:  “No person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions.”

When contacted yesterday, Mr Oundo declined to comment on the petition, reasoning he would be the one to chair the extraordinary meeting.

The call for action by the lawyers comes at the time when their Kenyan counterparts took on President William Ruto following his remarks, threatening to disobey court orders issued by what he called “corrupt judges”. 

He claimed such orders were aimed at derailing his development agenda.

The Kenyan lawyers called for countrywide protests over the same remarks by President Ruto.

Ugandan lawyers last held a protest almost 20 years ago following the attack on the High Court in Kampala by the infamous “black mambas”. The black mambas had attempted to re-arrest the then-Opposition presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye upon being granted bail by Justice Edmond Ssempa Lugayizi.

The lawyers were protesting what they called the military interference in the trial of Dr Besigye and others.