Ugandan Wants $31 M Judgment Tossed

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Africa News Update

Can a sitting President ignore a summons and a judgment in a UK court on a civil case?

The question may soon be answered in a case in which a former newspaper owner won a multi-million dollar judgment against Uganda’s president Yoweri K. Museveni.

Uganda born British journalist Dr. Jesse Mashate filed a lawsuit against Museveni in the U.K. Commercial High Court last year alleging wrongful expropriation of his publishing business The Weekend Digest in 1986 shortly after Museveni seized power. The paper is said to have published critical articles on Museveni’s then National Resistance Army which led his insurgency.

Commercial High Court issued a summons to President Museveni on November 17, 2006. On December 4, there was no response, and the Court took a decision on December 11, 2006, awarding Dr. Mashate $ 30.69 million.

Now the Ugandan ruler wants the judgment set aside and his attorneys have recently filed an appeal seeking to overturn the decision.

"We filed an appeal to the Court to have a new hearing," Patrick Asiimwe, a lawyer representing the defendant, president Museveni, tells The Black Star News. "Somehow these people hadn't taken the guy seriously and they ignored the case," he adds, referring to how Dr. Mashate’s claims were handled.

He added, "It was somehow neglected but when I got the instructions I acted fast and immediately and am assuring you we have filed a firm strong appeal to argue the case."

Asiimwe is confident his client will prevail. "Oh, yes, our team has strong arguments and there are high chances to revoke the ruling because this was done in absence of the defendant and the plaintiff had no strong evidence," he notes.

A British legal expert and analyst, Darling Zimmer, isn’t so sure.
"Proceedings in Court give a stipulated time to the defendant and this was an extremely serious and professional rating matter and would in this instance effectively disable the likely defense argument," he says, noting that there’s a time frame for defendants to ask that a judgment be set aside.

"It is now nearly eight months since the judgment was taken, if 10-15 days then that is understandable, but months, chances are slim," he adds.

Dr. Mashate himself wasn’t eager to divulge much, suggesting the story was neither new nor newsworthy. "But," he quipped, "what makes the British legal system the blueprint for worldwide judicial frameworks is its capacity to deliver justice fairly and squarely even to the most hardened habitual hardcore criminal instinctively ailing from acute allergy to democratic governance and rule of law."

Yet, his lawyer, Alex Oringa has faith in the system. “Instead of settling the issue they want to spend more. Here the law is not like in Kampala where there are extensions of the proceedings and change of judges to suit the interests of the defendants," he says.

"The Court took the Judgment after we submitted all the relevant Certificates of Service, which indicates that they had got everything but intentionally ignored and undermined the orders of Her Royal Majesty's Courts," adds Oringa.

The High Court judgment against the Ugandan president was entered as Claim No. 2006 Folio 1193, N30 HC0 on December 11, 2006 by the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench, Commercial Division.

A copy of the ruling obtained by The Black Star reads in part: "If you did reply to the claim form and believe the judgment has been entered wrongly in default, you may apply to the court office giving your reasons why the judgment should be set aside"

It further says that; "An application form is available for you to use and you will need to pay a fee." And: “A hearing may be arranged and you will be told when and where it will take place."

It also reads, "Payments Must be made to the person named at the address for payment and Do Not bring or send payment to the Court-they will not be accepted." And additionally, the ruling cautions, "You should allow at least 4 days for your payment to reach the claimant or his representative. Make sure that you keep records and can account for all payments made. Proof may be required if there is any disagreement. It is not safe to send cash unless you use registered post"

Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from London


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