Mabirizi petitions court to block prosecution of Karamoja iron sheets suspects

Lawyer Male Mabirizi addressing journalists
Lawyer Male Mabirizi addressing journalists

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Lawyer Male Mabirizi has petitioned the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala seeking a declaration that the investigations, arrests, detentions, and subsequent prosecutions of some suspects implicated in the diversion of iron sheets meant for the people of Karamoja are illegal.

According to Mabirizi, some suspects include the Vice President, Speaker, Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Members of Local Government Councils are not holders of offices in the public service and hence cannot be held criminally liable.

Mabirizi argues that under the law, it is the Permanent Secretary Office of the Prime Minister and his or her subordinates who are responsible for accountability and not the said official bearers.

Mabirizi’s application comes at the time when two government officials Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono and State Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amos Lugoloobi were charged in the Anti-Corruption Court in relation to the diversion of the iron sheets in question.

Although the Criminal Investigations Department-CID last month stated that they were investigating 22 Ministers, 31 MPs, and 13 Chief  Administrative Officers over the iron sheets scandal, the Spokesperson of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Jacquelyn Okui stated that files of those implicated will be coming in piece meals as and when they are forwarded by the Police which is investigating the matter.

However, according to Mabirizi the piecemeal investigations, arrests, detentions, and Prosecutions derogate the right to a fair hearing.

Minister Lugoloobi sent to Luzira prison over Karamoja iron sheets
Ugandan State Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development Amos Lugoloobi is escorted to the anti-corruption court in Kololo district of Kampala, Uganda April 17, 2023.

Mabirizi argues that after a careful understanding of several articles in the Constitution, they give a clear picture that a Vice President, Speaker, Prime Minister, and Ministers can’t be charged for items in their offices.

Instead, he argues that it is the work of Accounting Officers who should therefore be held accountable and that the recycling of one case of 14,500 iron sheets into multiple files is designed by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to derogate the accused persons’ right to fair hearing deny them access to affordable legal services.

To support his case, Mabirizi has attached several decisions by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court including that of Godfrey Kazinda and another of Dr. Kiiza Besigye all against the State where a similar decision was made.

Why Speaker Anita Among Returned 500 Karamoja Iron Sheets

Mabirizi’s application which was filed on Monday has now been fixed for hearing before the Anti-Corruption Court  Judge Lawrence Gidudu on May 22nd, 2023.

He contends that the investigations, arrests, and prosecutions infringe upon and derogate fundamental human Rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Read Also: Minister Lugoloobi sent to Luzira prison over Karamoja iron sheets

Mabirizi wants the Anti-Corruption Court to issue a permanent injunction restraining the Uganda Police Force, Director of Public Prosecutions on any other State Agency from further conducting investigations, arrests, detentions, and prosecutions against Vice President, Speaker, Prime Minister, Minister, Members of Parliament and Members of Local Government Council in respect of the iron sheets processed under the January 12th, 2023 Internal Memo by Minister in Charge of Karamoja Affairs.

He also wants the said steps declared null and void the Attorney General, DPP who is listed as the only respondents in this case be ordered to pay him general, exemplary, and aggravated damages jointly and severally as well as costs of the suit.

In December 2021, Parliament passed a supplementary budget worth 39 billion shillings to support various programs in Karamoja. Of these, 22 billion shillings were meant to purchase goats while 5 billion shillings were for the procurement of 100,000 iron sheets which are alleged to have been diverted.

President Museveni on April 3rd, 2023 wrote to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja who is implicated in the scandal, saying those who were involved in the iron sheets scandal made a political mistake and he also promised to make political action.