Lawyer Mabirizi challenges President Museveni’s COVID-19 directives

Lawyer Mabirizi challenges President Museveni’s COVID-19 directives
Lawyer Male Mabirizi

Kampala, Uganda | URN | City lawyer Male Mabirizi has petitioned the High Court in Kampala seeking to quash the COVID-19 directives issued by President Yoweri Museveni and Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo suspending several operations due to the disease.

On Sunday 6, June 2021, President Museveni announced a 42-day closure of schools to control COVID-19 infections in the face of a second wave of the pandemic. Museveni also banned inter-district travel, public gatherings and prayers.

A day after, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo also suspended all court hearings including election petitions for 42 days to mitigate the effects of the new COVID-19 wave.

In his application before the Civil Division, Mabirizi contends that the President of Uganda has no powers to regulate people in the prevention of a contentious disease by mere oral statements/orders/or directives and decrees.

“The measures declared are not supported by an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument. The statements/orders/directives/decrees are Illegal,” reads Mabirizi’s application in part.

According to Mabirizi, the said directives are unreasonable, irrational and defeat common sense.

“That I know the only lawful way the President could make the above directions were through a statutory instrument, putting into account public participation and involvement. That I also know that laws in Uganda take effect upon publication in the Gazette not upon oral communication,” reads Mabirizi’s affidavit supporting the case.

On the Chief Justice directives, Mabirizi argues that he lacks the powers to order for closure of courts acting on a president’s speech since such is reportedly 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 closed,” reads the affidavit in part.

The Chief Justice had indicated in his circular that only urgent matters like plea taking and registering of new cases were to be considered within this period of 42 days.

But Mabirizi adds however that by law, the election petitions are supposed to be heard expeditiously and that the Chief Justice has no powers to order that they should not be heard.

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Mabirizi now wants the court to quash Museveni and Owiny-Dollo’s COVID-19 directives on the ground of being illegal as well as issue a permanent order restraining the government and her agents from implementing them.

He equally needs damages and costs of the application as a result of the contentious directives.

In 2020, when Museveni had instituted the first lockdown, Mabirizi filed a relatively similar case challenging the President’s directives.

However, the then head of High Court Civil Division Justice Andrew Bashaija de-registered Mabirizi’s case from the court records before it could even be heard.