Uganda Law Society President Ruth Sebatindira and a group of lawyers are locked in a bitter row, trading accusations of lacking civility, fomenting intrigue and using barbaric language.
At the heart of the matter is the conduct of aocates challenging the reappointment of Justice Benjamin Odoki as the chief justice. Lawyers George W Kanyeihamba, Nicholas Opiyo, Emmanuel Orono and Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga walked out on the Constitutional court justices on June 16, protesting the continued hearing of their case yet they had lodged an appeal in the Supreme court contesting the refusal by Justices Steven Kavuma and Augustine Nshimye to step aside.
In a dossier written to all practising lawyers last month, Sebatindira drew first blood when she criticized the four lawyers’ action. She said members of the legal fraternity seemed to be accepting a fundamental loss of common courtesy.
“A lack of mutual respect between judges and aocates is the cause of the recent storm out of court at the hearing of the Constitutional petition contesting the reappointment of Justice Odoki as the chief justice of Uganda having reached the constitutionally-prescribed retirement age. It is important to mention that ULS is not running amok and that we condemn all such unethical and discourteous behaviour,” she wrote.
In the four-page letter, the ULS president urged judges and aocates to revive valuable traditions of professional courtesy.
In their July 2 letter responding to Sebatindira, the four lawyers accuse the ULS president, some lawyers and some judges of working to undermine the integrity of fellow aocates. They point out that in her letter, she concluded with a quotation from Jonuita Kidd who said that “A person educated in mind and not in morals is a menace to society.”
Although they agree with the above quote, they say that it only applies to Sebatindira because of her clandestine deeds.
“We are not much concerned with the vulgarity and barbarism of the language you [Sebatindira] use in your plans to undermine the integrity of those you either envy or whose character and integrity frighten you,” they wrote.
The lawyers added that among the people Sebatindira accused of misconduct were persons who have distinguished themselves in different fields of human endeavour.
“They include one [Kanyeihamba] who is the holder of the award of the lifetime achievement trophy and several medals of honour,” the letter says, pointing out that even President Museveni has previously praised Kanyeihamba’s integrity.
They point out that the document Sebatindira wrote depicts disagreements within her inner circle and, by extension, it reveals her failure as the leader of ULS.
The lawyers accuse ULS of abdication of its role in society. They cite a ULS extraordinary general meeting last year in which it was resolved the law society was to file a petition in the Constitutional court challenging the absence of a substantive chief justice.
“This resolution was sponsored by Bruce Kyerere as the lead petitioner. It was supported by folks like Andrew Kasirye and a host of other senior lawyers. We even appointed lawyers [Kyerere was one of them] to file a ULS petition. This was because this matter was integral to our mandate as a society and affected us as practising lawyers,” they assert.
Yet, they say, ULS did not file the petition. It instead chose to rely on Karuhanga’s petition to resolve a bigger question of the vacuum in the judiciary.
Source : The Observer