Arusha – Kampala City lawyer Male Mabirizi has dragged the East African Community secretary-general, Amb. Libérat Mfumukeko to court over his recent press statement in which he accused him of misusing the Community’s emblem among other allegations.
Mfumukeko has been sued by Mabirizi before the East African Court of Justice at the Kampala sub-registry.
Mabirizi in his petition accuses the secretary-general of having issued a press statement dated September 16, 2020, alleging that he (Mabirizi) was misusing the Community’s emblem, using derogatory language against the sitting President Yoweri Museveni and photographs of the justices of the East African Court to raise funds for personal purposes.
“The Community wishes to inform the public that sections seven and eight of the Community Emblems Act as amended expressly prohibit the unauthorized use of the Community emblem. Section seven clause one thereof provides that no person shall without the permission of the council of ministers notified in the gazette, use or display the Community emblem,” reads the statement in part.
The statement adds that “Section eight of the said law created an offense for abuse of the emblem punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding United States Dollars 3,000 (Shs 11m) or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years or both the fine and imprisonment.
Mfumukeko also wrote that “while the Community set up the East African court of justice as a neutral arbiter for disputes between the parties, it condemns the abuse of its emblem, misuse of the photographs of the judges and the derogatory language that Mr Male Mabirizi has used against a sitting head of state.”
However, in his petition, Mabirizi contends that the Mfumukeko’s actions of issuing and signing the said statement were actuated by malice and resulted into a breach of the principles and fair hearing because he did not first ask him to find out whether he was the initiator of the advert soliciting for funds or and; whether he was doing it allegedly for his personal gain.
Mabirizi says the statement was done purposely to prejudice the outcome of his case challenging the removal of the age limit from the constitution that paved way for President Museveni to seek re-election in the 2021 elections.
Mabirizi further contends that the said statement puts him at risk of being arrested, restriction of his liberty, forced disappearance, mob justice among others by agencies of the partner state of Uganda and non-state actors including vigilantes.
In 2019, Mabirizi launched a campaign soliciting for more than Shs 300 million to help him in transport, accommodation and drafting of legal documents in his age limit appeal case that is pending determination before Arusha.
Mabirizi who says he had spent a lot of money in two Ugandan courts which didn’t accord him justice, asked whoever supported his case to support him financially. As a result, he says he obtained Shs 20 million from Ugandans but still it was not enough and he would use road transport.
“Up to now am collecting money because the problem which we got is that after the Ugandan courts robbing us, we needed money to go to Arusha. The budget was big, roughly we needed about Shs 390m. Of course, we did not get the money but we have kept on getting money – I think about Shs 20 million and that is the money which we have been using to print, photocopy and travel to Arusha by road. That fundraising has been going on and that fundraising is perfect and lawful be it in the East African treaty or wherever. The judges themselves are aware of it because when we went to Arusha,” Mabirizi says.
Mabirizi now wants the East African Court of Justice to order Mfumukeko to apologize to him and retract the said statement and pay him damages, for the disturbances and anguish caused to him and costs of the suit.
He also wants court to issue an injunction permanently restraining the secretary-general of the East Africa Community from issuing any further unlawful statements of that nature against him.
The petition comes up nine days ahead of the long-awaited judgement in the age limit case by the East African Court of Justice.