The Solicitor General has erected a legal barrier to Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago’s resumption of his duties, saying he failed to execute orders issued by the Supreme Court and his return to office would be in contempt of court.
Mr Lukwago has been involved in unending legal gymnastics with the government since his controversial removal from office on November 25, 2013. Having won back the Lord Mayorship with a big margin in February, Mr Lukwago had set today for his return to his office to complete this term before he is sworn in for a new term next month.
He said the government side had failed to observe a 21-day deadline to appeal against an earlier court victory he registered, meaning that there is no longer any legal barrier to his return to office.
The government side, however, yesterday threw the blame back at Mr Lukwago’s feet, saying he is the one who failed to execute orders of the “Supreme Court that were extracted by his own lawyers”.
“It is a fact that Mr Erias Lukwago has never filed the Reference in the Court of Appeal as ordered by the Supreme Court,” Mr Denis Bireije, who, on behalf of the Solicitor General, signed the April 13 letter communicating the Attorney General’s stand on Mr Lukwago’s planned return to office today, wrote.
The letter was addressed to Ms Jennifer Musisi, the executive director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), who had solicited the advice. “It is, therefore, the opinion of this office that the expiration of the 21 days alluded to by Mr Lukwago as a basis for accessing the Lord Mayor’s office is untenable in light of the orders,” the letter said.
The controversial 21 days arose from a ruling of the High Court of March 28, 2014, which prevented the government from removing Mr Lukwago from office and the Electoral Commission from holding a fresh election to fill his position.
The same ruling ordered for Mr Lukwago’s return to office, which he did on March 31, 2014. Within hours of his re-entering office, however, then acting Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma, seating singly and not as a panel as is usually the practice in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, accepted the Attorney General’s application to keep Mr Lukwago out of office to “allow the Attorney General to appeal against the ruling”, which led to Mr Lukwago’s being thrown out of office again. Mr Lukwago challenged Justice Kavuma’s decision in the Supreme Court, asking to be re-instated to his office.
The Supreme Court, under former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki, five months later, ruled that Mr Lukwago had gone to the wrong court, and that he should instead appeal Mr Kavuma’s ruling to a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal.
The Solicitor General now argues that the government side’s hands were tied by Mr Lukwago not appealing against Mr Kavuma’s ruling before a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal as the Supreme Court advised.
Whereas Mr Lukwago has always argued that the government side had to appeal against the High Court ruling in his favour within 21 days, the Solicitor General now argues that the 21 days period within which the Attorney General could appeal were “frozen” during the period of the back-and-forth between the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
“The Supreme Court’s order superseded that of the Court of Appeal when it stayed the status quo beyond the 21 days’ timeframe and until the final disposal of the Reference before the three Justices of Appeal,” Mr Bereije argued in the letter.
Mr Lukwago, who said he was just returning from Kabaka Mutebi’s 61st birthday celebrations at Budo, said he had not seen the letter and needed time to consult with his lawyers before responding.