By Andante Okanya
Hearing of the three separate civil suits filed by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi against three newspapers over defamation is scheduled to start on December 5 at the High Court in Kampala.
The newspapers Daily Monitor, The East African, and Red Pepper, published various articles last year between January and May that purportedly tarnished Mbabazi’s image.
On Friday, the court presided by Justice Benjamin Kabiito had convened for the first time ever since the suit was filed last year on June 22.
However, court could not proceed with the case, since Mbabazi’s lawyer John Mary Mugisha, was pre-occupied at the Supreme Court. It is common practice in law that matters at a superior court take priority over subordinate lower courts.
James Nangwala appeared as lawyer for Daily Monitor and the East African, while Max Mutabingwa was lawyer for Red Pepper.
Mbabazi is demanding an apology and wants the publications permanently restrained from portraying him as a disgrace. He states that he was depicted as “a crook and gambler who cannot be entrusted with public resources.”
Mbabazi contends that the publications carried totally false, unfounded expressions and innuendos. He asserts that their motive was “deliberately calculated to lower his hitherto high esteem and integrity in the eyes of right-thinking members of the public.”
Mbabazi wants damages plus costs of the suit, with a 28% annual interest from the date of judgment till full payment.
For Daily Monitor, the contention is on the story 'Police quiz Mbabazi over NRM party cash problems,’ published in the May 7, 2012 edition. The paper's editor in chief, parent company Nation Media Group, and the author Richard Wanambwa, are listed as co-defendants.
For the East African, the contention is on the story 'Mbabazi on way out, NRM insiders predict’. Published on May 14, 2012. Jointly sued are the paper's editor in chief, parent company, and the author special correspondent Edmond Kizito.
For Red Pepper, Mbabazi claims that last year on January 15, it published a defamatory story headlined 'Mbabazi buys building @ shs30BN: swanky tower belongs to oil tycoon Mandela: National exclusive'.
He is also aggrieved over the story 'Mbabazi in trouble over city building: secrets why Generals oppose Amama Presidency Emerge'
The other story published last year on January 20, was 'Mbabazi buys another city building: National exclusive: Mbabazi buys another city building at sh10b,Prime Minister is on estate buying spree'.
Another story carried in the February 2, 2012, edition was ‘Source of Mbabazi wealth exposed'.