“Disgraceful And Appalling:” Lawyers Trash AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s Remarks on Judges’ Independence

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A group of 15 lawyers and activists that has been at the forefront of calls for the Uganda Law Society (ULS) and its members to boycott the Judiciary’s opening of the New Law Year event that was held last Friday – in protest of the High Court decision that barred the Law Society from convening an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of its members to discuss the independence or lack of it of Judges in Uganda, has hit back at Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka over his remarks made at the New Law Year event – lambasting the move.

The group which includes big-name lawyers such as; Mr. Peter Walubiri, Mr. Mohmed Mbabazi, Mr. Phillip Karugaba, Mr. Isaac Ssemakadde, Ms. Sarah Kasande, and Mr. Frank Kanduho, among others, says in a joint statement that the Attorney General’s speech was “disgraceful and appalling.”

In his address at the opening of the New Law Year event, Mr. Kiryowa Kiwanuka said the Uganda Law Society has no mandate to discuss the independence of Judges.

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The Attorney General who doubles as the Head of the Bar further defended President Yoweri Museveni’s controversial letter to Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo asking him to intervene in a Court matter involving the attachment of a mosque – this letter is one of the major instances of alleged judicial interference that the group of lawyers cited to elicit action from the Law Society.

“ As the Head of the Bar, I was appalled by the decision of a section of the Law Society to discuss or in fact discipline a Judicial officer in the conduct of their judicial function. That must stop. If one is aggrieved by the decision of a Judicial officer, your place is before the Courts whether you agree with it or not. What were we going to do?  Summon the Judicial officer before us? That is wrong. We must know how far we must go and which fora to address our grievances.” The Attorney General said, adding:

 

“ We have had a lot of excitement about a communication between the President and the Chief Justice. Law Society sitting to discuss. Discuss what? This is a communication between one arm of the state with another arm of the state… if the Law Society has the legal mandate, as so we say, to communicate our grievances to the Judiciary, why then doesn’t the Executive have the right to communicate its grievances? Let us know how far we must go.”

According to the group, the Attorney General’s speech negates the seriousness of the risk presented to our constitutional democracy by the President’s letter and similar instances of alleged judicial interference.

“ The Attorney General’s attempt to camouflage the President’s plainly transgressional letter as merely communication between two heads of arms of government ignores grave constitutional implications and is disgraceful and appalling. We know this is not the first of such interference and that the President has described himself as a lobbyist on Court decisions.” The group said.

Meanwhile, the Uganda Law Society President Bernard Oundo in his address at the New Law Year event also expressed displeasure at the Court decisions barring ULS from convening the said EGM.

Mr. Oundo, however, opposed the boycotting of the Judiciary’s events in favor of using the appellate system against the unfavorable Court decisions.

“ As Uganda Law Society we have two orders from the Courts that may have implications on the right to assembly and freedom of association with far-reaching implications on the mandate of the Uganda Law Society. We will lead by example. We will defend these matters in the courts of law and will not even attempt to boycott this function.” Mr. Oundo said.


Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.

Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.


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