A group of 70 lawyers has gone to court to force the government to publish findings of the inquiry into the fire that destroyed the Kasubi royal tombs two years ago.
The lawyers, under the Young Catholic Lawyers for Political Correctness (YCLPC), also want court to order the Attorney General to prosecute any culprits implicated in the findings. They filed the suit at High Court on Friday. Among other things, YCLPC, whose current president is Jude Mbabaali, fights for rule of law and constitutionalism.
“Take notice that Court will be moved [date not yet named] for mandamus compelling the minister responsible for Gender, Labour and Social Development to make public the Kasubi tombs commission of inquiry report,” reads the suit filed by Mbabaali and YCLPC Secretary Richard Lumu, an advocate of the High Court.
The Kasubi tombs, a site with remains of four Buganda kings, and a Unesco World Heritage site, were one of Uganda’s major tourist attractions. They were destroyed by fire in March 2010. This heightened tensions between Buganda and the central government, with some Baganda pointing an accusing finger at President Museveni’s government. At least three people were killed, allegedly by security operatives, as Museveni visited the site a day after the fire.
On August 3, 2010, the government set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the cause of fire and to establish who killed civilians shortly after the incident. The commission was chaired by Justice Steven Engwau. Other members were Augustine Okurut, Godfrey Lule, Grace Akullo and Damiano Lubega. Cheborion Barishaki and Florence Sewanyana were the commission’s Lead Counsel and Secretary, respectively. They were supposed to submit a report three months after starting work.
Some of the terms of reference to the commission included were to establish the causes of fire, to establish the security status at the site at the time of the incident, and to inquire into the capacity of the persons in charge of the tombs to manage the site. The commission was also supposed to suggest preventive measures against the occurrence of similar calamities in the future.
The commission completed its findings and handed over the report to government on March 16, 2011. In January this year, YCLPC gave the government, through the Information Officer of ministry of Gender, a seven-day ultimatum to publish the report. According to an affidavit sworn by Mbabaali, to date, the minister has not responded.
“The act of the minister denying the applicants access to the said report or making it public is inconsistent with Article 41 of the Constitution and Section (5) of the Access to Information Act 2005,” Mbabaali partly says in his affidavit.
Mbabaali told The Observer on Friday that the law provides that when a matter of public importance like the Kasubi tombs fire happens under suspicious circumstances, an inquiry must be carried out and the findings made public. He charged that delaying the report was aimed at protecting people who have been implicated in the report. Under Judicial Review, this suit is expected to be heard within 45 days from today when the High Court Civil Registrar Eudes Katirima is expected to serve the Attorney General.
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