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Government defends COVID-19 lockdown at East Africa court

Kampala city under lockdown following the presidential directives so as to curb the spread of coronavirus. File photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Attorney General has defended the President’s directives on curfew and lockdown at the East African Court in Arusha.

The directives in mid-March were challenged by city lawyer Male Mabirizi at the East African Court of Justice saying they were unconstitutional.

Mabirizi said the directives which among others led to the closure schools, stopped church services were not backed by any law but decrees. He argued that Uganda is not governed by decrees.

He also challenged the appointments of several  government officials during the lockdown. The President has just appointed the Director of Public Prosecution Justice Jane Frances Abodo and the Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General Moses Musinguzi among others.

The Attorney General represented by George Kallemera at the East African Court of Justice Registry in Kampala said Mabirizi’s suit is devoid of any merit and it should be dismissed.

Concerning the appointments made during the lockdown, the government says that the president has powers to appoint any qualified person into an office in public service at the rank of head of department or above including a confirmation as well as their removal.

The government contends that the President’s directives were backed by statutory instruments issued by the Health Minister under the Health Act.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng in the past two months issued three instruments to enforce  government’s directives on measures taken to stop the spread of the Covid 19 disease.

The instruments include; the Public Health Notification of Covid-19 Order 2020. The order provided that COVID-19 should be managed under the Public Health Act Statutory Instrument number 45 of 2020.

Aceng also issued the Statutory order restricting entry into Uganda and rules to prevent the spread of Covid 19 within Uganda. All these were issued shortly after Mabirizi had filed his case.

Mabirizi took government to the East African court of Justice after a similar case was deregistered from the Kampala high court records by Justice Andrew Bashaija.

He in the case to East African Court of Justice condemned the closing of the borders of Uganda with its EAC partner states saying it would impede trade, free movement of goods and services as envisaged in the EAC common market.

“The action of the president to close the border with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan which are partner states in the community without notifying them and without complying with the Uganda Health Act was in contravention of the principle of free movement of persons enshrined in the protocol of the establishment of the EAC common market.”

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