Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka has hit at members of the Uganda Law Society-ULS for overstepping their mandate. This is after the lawyers called for an Extra Ordinary Meeting to discuss the independence of the Judiciary.
Kiryowa Kiwanuka wants the lawyers to respect the boundaries and handle their grievances with the Judiciary in an appropriate form.
He was speaking on Friday at the opening of the New Law Year 2024 at the High Court in Kampala.
On Tuesday, Justice Musa Ssekaana, the head of the High Court’s Civil Division issued a temporary injunction restraining Uganda Law Society from calling, convening, and arranging an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the Judiciary’s independence.
The order issued by Ssekaana follows a successful application by one of the members of ULS Brian Kirima against his professional body where he said he was going to suffer irreparable damages if the meeting went on. Ssekaana ‘s decision to block their Extraordinary Meeting has since divided the lawyers.
Kiwanuka said that the meeting which was fixed for February 7th, 2024 was unnecessary and irregular because, under the law, lawyers cannot summon a Judge to appear before them to take action against him or her.
He advised that lawyers should know their limits and if there are any disputes or grievances, they should go to courts of law and not on social media.
Kiwanuka further called upon Advocates to desist from acts that put the integrity of Judges in disrepute. He explained that President Museveni’s letter to the Chief Justice was a mere communication from one arm of government expressing its grievance over an issue to another arm of government.
The Attorney General has also cautioned lawyers on morals adding since judges are picked from lawyers, the same people carry the immorality to the bench.
Bernard Oundo, the President of the Uganda Law Society expressed concern over a section of lawyers who boycotted the event.
Oundo said that much as he acknowledges the tension between the lawyers and judiciary, a boycott is not the final solution as such matters must be fought and resolved in courts of Law. Oundo added that the Judiciary should be independent and should not receive letters from anyone and the President must stop interference with the Judiciary.
This was the second time the High Court has blocked an extraordinary general meeting called by the ULS this year. Last month, the same court issued an order blocking them from convening to sit and discuss issues related to the management and conduct of Hoima High Court judge Jesse Byaruhanga Rugyema in the Tilenga Oil case where they say there was unfairness, gross unprofessionalism, and bias allegedly exhibited by the Judge.
As a result, a section of some lawyers including Eron Kiiza, Isaac Ssemakadde, Jude Byamukama, Daniel Walyemera, Sarah Kasande, Phillip Karugaba, Peter Arinaitwe, Anthony Odur, and Frank Kanduho mobilized their colleagues to boycott today’s event where only a few of them have attended.
In a statement released on Friday, Ssemakadde stated that the boycott has been resoundingly successful.
“We salute the majority of the 50-000 members of the Uganda Law Society who have heeded our call, and the media and the public who have reinforced our principled stand for Independence of the Judiciary, as opposed to a performative gig in disgusting colonial robes and wigs”, said Ssemakadde.
He said the Judiciary’s charade of “Opening a New Law Year” is obviously for narrow-minded motivations, including what he described as of course money-changing in the Temple of Justice.
“We know that we belong to a diverse fraternity of lawyers at the Bench and the Bar, amongst whom there will always be some charlatans without a conscience, ready and willing to put their want of fidelity and compunction on full display for the highest bidder. Today we get to put faces and names to the shameless “learned friends”, said Ssemakadde.
Speaking at the event, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo backed Kiwanuka.
According to Owiny-Dollo, attacking a judicial officer for a decision that a Judicial Officer has made is a no-go area. He explained that lawyers are not commodity traders but officers of the court issued with annual certificates.
He wondered about the caliber of some lawyers who go on social media to discuss the private lives of Judicial officers.
President Museveni in a speech read by Vice President Jessica Alupo expressed commitment to continue supporting the Judiciary to bring access to justice closer.
He commended judicial officers for embracing Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms such as reconciliation, Arbitration, and mediation.