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Mabirizi challenges Museveni’s oral directives on Covid-19

Lawyer Male Mabirizi states that the statements by Museveni violate and threaten his and other Ugandans’ fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | City lawyer Male Mabirizi has petitioned the High Court in Kampala seeking a declaration that the orders issued by President Yoweri Museveni imposing a lockdown violate fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution.

According to Mabirizi, several statements and speech orders by President Museveni communicated on Friday June 18th 2021, relating to COVID-19 and the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo’s circular dated June 21st 2021, titled “revised contingency measures by the Judiciary to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” are infringements on his and other Ugandans fundamental inherent and other rights enshrined in chapter four of Uganda’s constitution.

The rights include right to equality and freedom from discrimination, right to life, right to personal liberty, right to property, right to associate with others, right to move freely throughout Uganda, right to culture and similar rights, right to participate in the affairs of government, economic rights among others.

On the said dates, Museveni issued a number of directives that closed education facilities, churches, banned public transport means and transport means for non essential workers, closed arcades and wholesale shops as well as imposing curfew starting 7pm up to 5:30am among others.

However, Mabirizi contends that the only lawful way the President could make the said directives was through a statutory instrument, putting into account public participation and involvement.

According to Mabirizi, laws in Uganda take effect upon publication in the gazette not upon oral communication.

As such, Mabirizi who recently lost three relatives to COVID-19 in one week including his father, argues that the statements by the President subject Ugandans to unclear and uncertain martial law and are incapable of being complied with or enforced.

“That it also beats common sense and it is illegal to ban people from travelling throughout Uganda instead of merely advising them not to and making restrictions in particular areas,” reads Mabirizi’s affidavit in part.

It adds: “I also know that the said directives are illegal, unreasonable, irrational, defeat common sense and issued in a procedure which was improper.”

Mabirizi also faults the Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo for having suspended a number of activities in court and ordered that only urgent matters will be attended to.

On this, Mabirizi argues that the Chief Justice lacks the powers to order the closure of courts acting on a President’s speech since such is allegedly outside his administrative functions.

“That further, I know that it is contrary to the principles of rule of law, democracy, good governance and human rights to have the Police and Defense Forces enforcing the speech where people are arrested but courts are closed,” adds the affidavit in part.

Mabirizi now states that the statements by Museveni and Owiny-Dollo violate and threaten his and other Ugandans’ fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

He thus wants court also to issue a permanent injunction restraining any Ugandan government official or agency from implementing any of the directives issued by Museveni last week and also issue an order nullifying the subsequent directives of Owiny-Dollo.

He also wants an order for compensation of both general and aggravated damages as well as costs of the suit.

The Civil Division Registrar Jamson Karemani has allocated Mabirizi’s case file to Justice Boniface Wamala who is yet to fix it for hearing.

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