By Agwanda Saye.
The East Africa Law Society has demanded Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to respect a court order directing withdrawal of security forces from besieged media houses.
The legal body with 15,000 lawyers as members has also called on the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to force the Government of Uganda to uphold the rule of law and withdraw military and security forces from premises of The Monitor and Red Pepper publications, KFM and Dembe FM.
East Africa Law Society (EALS) President Mr. James Mwamu called on EALA to leverage its ongoing session in Kampala to call on the Government to respect the East African Community (EAC).
“Uganda should adhere to its commitments to observe individual and media rights and freedoms as contained under Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty establishing the EAC,” Mr. Mwamu said.
The EALS President said that the Government of President Museveni should refrain from undue interference with well-meaning individual and commercial investments.
Mr. Mwamu said that the professional body with a membership of 15,000 lawyers across the region is exploring regional judicial avenues to guarantee freedom of the media in Uganda.
The EALS expressed similar sentiments in a letter dated May 27 to President Museveni, East Africa Legislative Assembly Speaker and EAC Secretariat Secretary General.
EALS is the umbrella regional Bar Association of the legal profession in East Africa and brings together the six national Law Societies of: The Burundi Bar Association, The Kigali Bar Association, The Law Society of Kenya, The Tanganyika Law Society, The Uganda Law Society and The Zanzibar Law Society; as well as their respective individual membership.
“We intend to explore other avenues to ensure cessation of the unfortunate state of affairs in the unlikely event that military forces in Uganda continue disregarding the rule of law,” Mr. Mwamu said.
He said that that a free independent and pluralistic media environment is crucial in a democratic society. “It acts as a forum for the public to access information and services understand and exercise their rights,” Mwamu said.
The EALS President also called on the EAC Secretary General to exercise his oversight mandate to ensure compliance of States with their obligations and commitments.
Mr. Mwamu said that the obligations are detailed under Article 29 (1) and (2) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC.
“The Government of Uganda should abstain from any actions that have the potential of derailing the proposed political federation of the EAC,” Mr. Mwamu said.