Simon Peter Kinobe

In the ongoing saga, a section of lawyers in Kampala have petitioned court challenging the legality of Uganda Law Society’s arbitration and mediation centre, a privately owned company operating without the consent of the members.
In the case filed before the Civil Division of the High Court, city lawyers; Nelson Walusimbi and Andrew Wambi sued the lawyers’ umbrella body jointly with International Centre for Arbitration and Mediation in Kampala (ICAMEK).

According to the plaintiffs, ICAMEK a company limited by guarantee was incorporated by the Uganda Registration of Services Bureau (URSB) on July 26, 2018 with Uganda Law Society (ULS) and Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA) as subscribers.

The complainants through their lawyers  Godfrey S. Lule & Co Advocates and Walusimbi & Co Advocates allege that ULS’ subscription and or formation of a company limited by guarantee is illegal and that notwithstanding the use its seal in any of the activities of the company to which it  is not bound by any incidental transactions or deeds.
It is alleged that the objects of ICAMEK as they relate to the administration and dispensation of justice by a private company are unconstitutional and thereby illegal.
The complainants alleged that by subscribing as a member to ICAMEK, the ULS is modifying its statutory mandate to circumvent the limits imposed on it by statute and to aid private profit initiatives against the general public of Uganda.

“The acts of the first defendant (ULS) amount to a divestiture from itself of its role and duty to the public thereby its subscription is incompatible with the exercise of its role and its duty to the public and to the government as provided for by statute,” the petitioners argued.

They said that by subscribing to ICAMEK, ULS top bosses committed members to assuming the liability against the express restrictions of its mother statute.
They are seeking court declarations that ULS acted outside its statutory mandate and hence acted illegally by subscribing to ICAMEK.

The plaintiffs want court declare that ULS and ICAMEK’s agenda of setting up an alternative dispute resolution judicial practice and administration that is parallel to the one established by the government through statutes for public utility and satisfaction is illegal.
“A declaration that the administration and dispensation of justice is, by virtue of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, a preserve of the government and therefore a private entity such as the second defendant (ICAMEK) is prohibited by law from setting up a parallel and competing system of justice and judicial administration from that which is endangered by the state,” the plaintiffs argue.

The court case comes as the members’ Extra-ordinary General Meeting (EGM) is set for May 22 to find consensus on the ICAMEK issue and discuss it in line with the provisions of the law.

Walusimbi, one of the complainants’ said that ICAMEK was established without the authorisation by the members and that one appointed the said directors because the idea has never been presented to the ULS Annual General Meeting.
However, ULS President Simon Peter Kinobe said on May 8 that it is unfortunate for ULS members to go the media instead of seeking clarification.
Kinobe added that the conflict is misplaced and misconstrued because the issue of ICAMEK was discussed at the recent Annual General Assembly in Entebbe where all members were present and that no contention was raised.

“The ULS Executive Council under Section 10 and 11 of the ULS Act undertook its function and mandate to incorporate a company limited by guarantee that was dubbed ICAMEK with the sole purpose of arbitration,” he said, adding that they incorporated a demand-driven arbitration centre where the eventual beneficiaries are lawyers’ clients and young lawyers that would participate in the arbitral process as both arbitrators and consultants.