Ugandan lawyers have said that they are tired of being ‘COVID-19 Orphans’ and they want elections held urgently so as to replace the leadership of the Uganda Law Society (ULS), starting with the current president Simon Peter Kinobe.
In a petition delivered by Advocate Isaac Ssemakadde to the Uganda Law Society secretariat at Buye, Ntinda on Wednesday afternoon, 21 lawyers demand that an urgent extraordinary general meeting of the Law Society is digitally convened to “agree on a new date and mode of convening an annual general meeting (AGM), for the purpose of conducting the election of Council Members and other business ordinarily conducted at the AGM in order to maintain normalcy and fulfill statutory requirements despite the Government’s anti-coronavirus measures.”
The petition sets out 5 grounds for the urgent meeting, including the leadership crisis at the Law Society caused by the aborted AGM of April 4th, 2020 and the “deafening silence” of the outgoing ULS governing counsel led by president Simon Peter Kinobe and the ULS elections committee chaired by Senior Advocate George Omunyokol which, according to the petitioners, is a pity since other organizations have “successfully implemented digital meetings and/or physical meetings with generally accepted Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) order to maintain normalcy and fulfill statutory requirements” during the Covid-19 lockdown.
In a short statement to the media, the lead petitioner counsel Ssemakadde said: “Enough is enough. We need to close the analogue chapter of Simon Peter Kinobe and his shenanigans, and move on to a new digital era of responsible and respectable tech-savvy leadership at the bar. We’re done being COVID-19 orphans! We want elections now!”
According to section 16 of the ULS Act, the extraordinary meeting requested for by the petitioners must be called for in 14 days and held within 30 days or else the members shall convene it themselves.
The Petition dated June 24th,2020, which is signed by the 21 lawyers demanding for the elections reads in part thus;
REQUISITION FOR A DIGITALLY CONVENED EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING (EGM) TO ADDRESS CONCERNS REGARDING DELAYED ELECTION OF ULS EXECUTIVE COUNCIL UNDER 5.9 and 16 OF THE ULS ACT, CAP 276
We, the undersigned petitioners, hereby requisition for a digitally convened EGM to formally address an important issue regarding the delayed elections of ULS Executive Council. The requisition for a general meeting is premised on the following reasons:
1) It is a requirement for ULS to convene an annual general meeting (AGM) for purposes of election of the council members in accordance with section 9 the ULS Act, Cap. 276 and the ULS (Elections) Regulations, 2016 SI No.10.
2) The last AGM was conducted on 6 April 2019 and therefore another AGM should have been conducted on 4 April 2020, as previously scheduled, to comply with the statutory requirement. However, it was impractical to convene this AGM in the usual manner of physical attendance of members at the designated venue owing to the anti-coronavirus measures implemented by Government, following the notification of COVID-19 as a public health emergency on 13 March 2020 by the Minister of Health.
3) Several organisations, including the Judiciary, Parliament, and public companies listed on the Stock Exchange, have successfully implemented digital meetings and/or physical meetings with generally recommended standard operating procedures in order to maintain normalcy and fulfill statutory requirements despite – and as a result of – the Government’s anti-coronavirus measures.
4) It is therefore foolhardy to keep the matter of ULS elections in limbo forever. ULS must rise above the quandary of the pandemic and convene the aborted AGM as soon as possible to restore normalcy and comply with statutory requirements. ULS must be a model society in the adaptation of legal innovations during this crisis. We should not allow our statutory mandate to be fettered by the pandemic.
5) The ULS Elections Committee and the outgoing ULS Governing Council have been deafeningly silent on this issue, which is a pity. Accordingly, we requisition for an online EGM to deal with following special business:
1) For the members to agree on a new date and mode of convening an AGM for the purpose of conducting the election of Council Members and other business ordinarily conducted at the AGM in order to maintain normalcy and fulfill statutory requirements despite – and as a result of – the Government’s anti-coronavirus measures.
For God and Country.”