By Andrew Irumba
Court has Monday afternoon concluded receiving submissions from both sides, on the application to have Prosecutor Richard Birivumbika disqualified from conduct of a criminal case on grounds of bias, conflict of interest and abuse of authority.
Hon. Justice Anthony Oyuko Ojok will deliver the Ruling tomorrow morning at 9:00am.
Prosecution and the Respondent in the above application was represented by State Attorney Mugisa Raymond. The Applicants, the accused, were represented by Eron Kiiza .
However, Birivumbika’s defense team dismissed all the claims and argued that attending the meetings of the impasse of the Kambuye land dispute doesn’t make one biased.
Applicants used police statements, minutes of the meetings and affidavits of the LCV, Area MP, Odur Anthony, LC1 chairman to support their suit.
Genesis of the Matter
However, it should be noted that this particular land eviction case is shrouded with a lot of controversy. For instance, Justice Joseph Murangira, who is handling the case, has also been said to behave in a very controversial manner.
It should be recalled that Jutsice Murangira was supposed to preside over hearing of the case on July 12, 2019, but for reasons known to him, he abdicated his authority. Justice Murangira did not turn up in court, to preside over a case, where more than 3,000 people were evicted from five villages.
It is purported that on or around Independence Day anniversary last year, George Kaweesi with the help of security personnel evicted people from five villages of Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera and Lwensanga.
The evicted residents petitioned court to intervene in the matter through their lawyers of Kizza and Mbabazi Advocates. However, Justice Murangira snubbed court and after waiting for the judge, who was in his chamber for close to an hour, to appear in vain, his bodyguard only identified as Asingwire emerged in court and informed the lawyers and evictees that they should leave, because the Judge wasnt coming.
On being pressed by lawyer Kiiza to explain why there was no court sitting as scheduled, the Police officer told court that the Judge had told him that the applicants, who were remanded in Prison, had not been arraigned in court and that the state attorney was absent.
“The judge told me that this court will not proceed because the suspects who are the owners of the case are on remand and that you will be notified of the next hearing date,” Asingwire said.
Hearing of the case has since hit a stalemate after the lawyers accused Birivumbika of being conflicted.
Despite the fact that Murangira told the lawyers that they would be informed of the next date for hearing from the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, the case has since then not been heard as they await court’s ruling on whether Birivumbika has conflict of interest or not.
The case was filed by Twenty-four people led by John Ssetimba, who sued George Kaweesi, his manager Francis Kyeyune, Mubende district Police commander Martin Okoyo and the Attorney General over illegal evictions.
Kaweesa and his manager are accused of forcefully evicting over 3000 people from the villages and destroying their crops and house while DPC Okoyo is accused of supporting Kaweesa and his manager to carry out the illegal evictions.
But during the violent eviction one person died: however Birivumbika and Kaweesi allegedly connived to have some of the evictees arrested over allegations of murder.
Over three thousand people who were evicted from their land in Kambuye, Mubende district have petitioned court the High Court in Mubende to strike resident Senior State Attorney Richard Birivumbika from their case registered as No. MBD/CRB 1829/2018; Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald Vs Uganda.
In their Miscellaneous Application number 216 of 2019; Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald Vs Uganda, the Applicants, through their lawyers of Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates, filed with the Mubende High Court Registrar, pray that court stops Birivumbika from conducting the case, because he is conflicted in the matter.
Their Petition reads in part thus; “Your Honour,The captioned application is a Motion to disqualify the Mubende Resident Senior State Attorney Birivumbika Richard from the conduct of criminal Case No. MBD/CRB 1829/2018; Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald and 17 Others Vs Uganda.It has recently come to our attention that Mr. Birivumbika Richard has conflict of interest in the present matter arising from his participation in negotiations that preceded the massive land evictions involving George Kaweesi (the evictor) and over 3000 evictees of which the 28 Accused are part of.
The land is comprised in Buwekula Block 168, Plot 28 at Kambuye and doubles as the alleged scene of crime. Mr. Birivumbika Richard got involved in the land dispute that led to the alleged crimes. Mr. Birivumbika is thus deeply conflicted, partial and will not be a disinterested Prosecutor.
We pray that the application before heard before the Prosecution case so as not to defeat its essence.”
The grounds for their Application are set out in the affidavits of Lutaaya Fred, Odur Anthony and others as may be filed prior or during the hearing but briefly are that;
The Applicants are Councillors in Mubende Municipal Council and among the 28 Accused persons in Criminal case vide MBD-CO-AA=153/2018: Uganda Vs Nantubiro Grace and 27 Others.
The Respondent Birivumbika Richard has vested interest in Criminal case vide MBD-CO-AA=153/2018: Uganda Vs Nantubiro Grace and 27 Others.
Birivumbika Richard participated, on the side of the complainant evictor, Kaweesi George, in the meetings and the negotiations regarding land comprised in Buwekula Block 168, Plot 28 at Kambuye, measuring 322.5 Hectares ( the Eviction Site) that preceded and whose failure led to the forced, violent and arbitrary evictions that happened between 7th and 12th October 2018.