U.K. Court Orders Uganda President To Pay Millions To Ex-Newspaper Publisher

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Uganda-born British national, Dr. Jesse Mashate, is seeking to enforce a $10,256,485 judgment (£6,850,00)--He is also seeking $59,245,050 in interest dating to when his newspaper was seized 24 years ago and $5,128,242 in legal costs

[Global: Africa]

In the latest twist to a dragged-out case, a U.K. Court has ordered Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to pay a former newspaper publisher millions of dollars for a newspaper seized in Uganda in 1986, The Black Star News has learned.

The court gave the plaintiff approval to amend his papers and serve the Ugandan leader through U.K. officials.

Uganda-born British national, Dr. Jesse Mashate, is seeking to enforce a $10,256,485 judgment (£6,850,00)--He is also seeking $59,245,050 in interest dating to when his newspaper was seized 24 years ago and $5,128,242 in legal costs. The total Dr. Mashate is seeking from President Museveni comes to $74.6 million or £ 49.8 million.

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Dr. Mashate originally won a summary judgment after filing his claim in a U.K. court in December 2006; the judgment was later set aside when President Museveni submitted that he had never been served. Dr. Mashate had argued that the papers had been served upon the Ugandan president while he visited Uganda's High Commission in Trafalgar Square, London, U.K.

Dr. Mashate was permitted by the court in October, 2009, to amend his papers and initiate fresh service in Uganda. This time, Chris Ward, a consular official at the United Kingdom's High Commission --the equivalence of an embassy-- in Uganda served the claim against the Ugandan president, with John Nuwamanya, Deputy Chief of Protocol at the East African country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, records show.

In reference to the case, on March 4, 2010, Lucy Newman, an official of H.M.'s Court Service, foreign process section, wrote to Dr. Mashate, confirming: "Please find enclosed herewith evidence of service of documents in the above matter received from the authorities of Uganda."

The court allowed Dr. Jesse Mashate, who had published The Weekend Digest, a Ugandan newspaper, to compute interest at 8% annually, from the date the paper was seized in 1986. The court also allowed him to recover costs. The order for payment was made on May 5, 2010, by the U.K.'s High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, records show, after President Museveni did not respond to the papers served through the Foreign Ministry.

Uganda's High Commissioner --the equivalence of an ambassador-- to the United Kingdom, Joan Rwabyomere, dismissed Mashate's case. “That matter as far as Uganda is concern was closed,” said Joan Rwabyomere. In 2007, The Black Star News reported that questions had been raised about the authenticity of some documents used by President Museveni's team to have the original judgment set aside, including one paper bearing the signature of Rwabyomere.

http://www.blackstarnews.com/?c=122&a=3492

President Museveni's press secretary Joseph Tamale Mirundi questioned whether the U.K. court was overreaching. "Do they have jurisdiction over Uganda? We are no longer a colony of Britain," he said.

Noting that Uganda's attorney general was best placed to answer questions over jurisdiction, Mirundi added: "A court must have jurisdiction over a country. Two, is he suing the president as an individual or as the president of Uganda. Three, what is the enforcement capability?"

Uganda's attorney general, Khiddu Makubuya, could not be reached for comment by publication time.

In terms of the order for payment, the court has granted Dr. Mashate "permission to serve the defendant out of jurisdiction under the State Immunity Act of 1978, at State House, Nakasero, P.O. Box 24594, Kampala, Uganda or elsewhere in Uganda," records show.

The State Immunity Act 1978 is an Act of the U.K. Parliament passed to implement the European Convention on State Immunity of 1972. It changed the doctrine of absolute state immunity to one of restricted immunity--a foreign state could now be sued in U.K. courts for certain activities, usually of a commercial nature.

Contacted in London, Dr. Mashate declined to elaborate on the case. "In legal terms Museveni is virtually a tired elephant in a swamp that could only sink deeper with every step," he said. "We promised you a David victory in the fight against Goliath.”

It is unclear how Dr. Mashate intends to collect on the court order should it survive another challenge. The court order was issued by Master Leslie and is captioned HQ07X01288 Dr. Jesse Mashate and Gen. Yoweri Museveni Kaguta.

President Museveni previously was represented by Forest Solicitors and later by Pillai & Jones Solicitors, both U.K. firms based in London. Dr. Mashate was represented by Graceland Solicitors.

Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from Europe.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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