By Jet John N. Tumwebaze
On Monday September 2, 2013, one of the local dailies ran a story on the suspension of the Attorney General at the Uganda Law Society (ULS) Extra Ordinary General Meeting.
I was misquoted as having “branded Nyombi as one of the most disgraceful and incompetent AGs who ever lived”.
Professional journalism dictates that factual, accurate and responsible reporting is adhered to. At no time did I refer to the Hon. AG as such and those who attended the meeting plus video recordings available would attest to this fact.
On the contrary, I opposed the “suspension” of the AG on grounds that it had no legal basis and most importantly it offended the right to be heard which is the back bone of the judicial system all over the civilized world. I told my learned colleagues that it was indeed the first time in my adult life and legal career that I had seen lawyers attempting to sacrifice a man for his opinions instead of defending his right to hold those opinions. The only other man I know who was scarified for his beliefs & opinions was Jesus Christ.
I did allude to the fact that if you asked ten lawyers to give their individual legal opinions on any Article of the Constitution or any piece of legislation, they are likely to come up with ten different legal opinions and each of them would be right. In fact the framers of our Constitution were alive to this fact and established the Constitutional Court under Article 137 to determine matters of constitutional interpretation.
Therefore, the fact that any lawyer or group of lawyers hold a legal opinion(s) different from that given by the AG does not make his opinion wrong or unconstitutional until the Constitutional Court has pronounced itself on the same. As a matter of fact, even if the Constitutional Court found the AG’s opinions to be unconstitutional, you still can’t brand him incompetent or hold him for professional negligence under any law. If this were the case, Advocates who give their clients legal opinions and file cases but are unsuccessful in Court would all be in prison.
Most practicing Advocates know the disclaimer/caveat that is normally embedded in our legal opinions to clients thus “…this opinion is based on the facts available to me and my understanding of the relevant Law”. The AG Hon. Peter Nyombi is by law for the time being the chief legal advisor to Government and his advice/opinion (based on his understanding of the law) is binding on all Government organs and whoever is aggrieved by such legal opinion should seek refuge at one of the temples of justice and not at the ULS Secretariat.
That said, this is not the first time nor will it be the last that attempts have been made to drag the ULS into partisan politics to serve party and or individual interests. The ULS leadership and members have in the past resisted such attempts and I implore members especially some of us who are out of politics (interested by- standers) to prevent the ULS from gliding off its core statutory mandate. While I find the resolutions by the ULS on the AG regrettable to say the least, as a member I respect the same as the official position taken by the society and am waiting to be educated by a precedent of how a “Certificate of Incompetence” looks like.
The writer is an Advocate