Opinion: The need for both sides to be heard

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A few weeks ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, via his twitter handle revealed that the United States government had slapped financial sanctions and visa restrictions on four Ugandans.

This was due to their ALLEGED ( and this is key) involvement in a scam where Ugandan children were removed from their families and placed into a corrupt adoption network, aided by a host of Ugandan officials. The named individuals to wit Ugandan judges Mike Mukiibi, Wilson Masalu Musene and lawyers, Patrick Ecobu and Dorah Mirembe.

The U.S government designated these four individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13818 which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The Department of State also designated Mukiibi and Musene under Section 7031 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 due to their involvement in significant corruption, Pompeo said.

It is alleged that Mirembe’s law firm used the services of intermediaries to seek out vulnerable families in remote Ugandan villages promising parents that their children would be moved to Kampala to further their education. It was further alleged that Mirembe and Ecobu facilitated bribes to Ugandan judges and other Ugandan government officials to fraudulently procure adoption cases.

This notwithstanding, there was no statement on record that these individuals had been given a chance to be heard on the allegations that had been levelled against them; moreover from a country which stands or claims to stand for truth and justice.

I am not here to definitively say that the said individuals were or were not involved in the activities that they were accused of being part of. But can we definitively say that they were involved in the said activities when no form of fact finding process was done whilst giving them the chance to be heard.

Moses Mukiibi is a retired Judge whereas Wilson Masalu Musene is currently a serving High Court Judge. To reach the levels they have has taken years of pain staking hard work. Dorah Mirembe and William Ecobu are both practicing advocates.

The years of pain staking hard work that the four named individuals have put into reaching where they are mean that the VERY least that they can be afforded is a fair trial. A chance to be heard and get their side of the story out. A fact finding mission.

We also can’t underestimate the hurt and humiliation that their families go through when unsubstantiated stories such as these come out. Reputations take years to build and can be crushed with a single blow. Are we going fold our arms, cross our legs and take what Secretary Mike Pompeo said as the gospel truth or can Ugandan authorities do more to engage the named individuals to try and establish the facts?

The Justices Moses Mukiibi and Wilson Masalu Musene are Justices of longstanding. They have delivered several landmark rulings that have helped to shape Ugandan jurisprudence. Surely, the Uganda Law Society and the Ugandan judiciary can do more to stand with their embattled colleagues.

Surely, they can make an effort to sit down with their colleagues and say, Look, this and that is being said about you. Tell us your side of the story. Can’t more be done to establish the truth than leaving them out to dry? It is easy to turn a blind eye when it’s not you in the eye of the storm. But it could be you tomorrow.

Can we cultivate a culture of listening to both sides of the story before making conclusions? The allegations could be true but they could also be false. Finally, our constitution postulates that every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent UNTIL PROVEN guilty.

To my knowledge, no charges have been preferred against the named individuals in the Ugandan courts of law which means that ABSOLUTELY ZILCH has been proved. In my eyes, and more importantly in the eyes of our supreme law, these individuals are innocent.


 

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