Story by Busein Samilu, Juliet Kigongo
President Museveni yesterday received both backing and criticism for asking the Chief Justice to stop the auctioning of Gadaffi National Mosque as ordered by court.A number of lawyers Daily Monitor spoke to said whereas the President may have legitimate concerns about the handling of the matter by the courts, it was improper of him to appear to be interfering with the independence of the Judiciary.On December 7, the President wrote to Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo expressing shock that a judge had issued orders for a national monument to go under the hammer.“I have got a letter from His Eminence Mubajje, the Mufti of Uganda, regarding the quarrel about the sales of Muslim properties, etc… I had been hearing about those wrangles but I had not focused my attention to them because I knew there are capable national Institutions responsible for those issues, especially the Judiciary you head,” the President wrote.Furthermore, the President then says: “However, I was most surprised to read in Mufti Mubajje’s letter that among the Muslim properties to be affected is the national mosque at Old Kampala!! Really!! What sane person, let alone a judge, can make such orders? How can a mosque or church be attached for debts carelessly entered into by officials of that faith? If there is no law protecting institutions of worship, then common sense is there”.He then requests Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo to review the matter and restore sanity.Seven days after his letter, the Court of Appeal yesterday issued a stay of execution for the auction.“…We grant a stay of execution pending the hearing of the pending appeal. We shall give detailed reasons on notice,” the court held.Court orderOn November 16, the Commercial Division of the High Court had ordered for the auctioning of a properties belonging to the Muslim community unless a Shs19 billion debt owed to businessman Justus Kyabahwa was paid by December 21.The attachment order arose after the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council sold community land in Sembabule District to Mr Kyabahwa for Shs3.5billion in 2020, yet was already leased out to someone else.The businessman asked for a refund, leading to accumulation of the debt to Shs19 billion.Yesterday, senior counsel Mr Peter Walubiri observed that the President has a long history of undermining independence of the Judiciary. “It is first of all bad for him to write to the court over an issue that is being handled…If he has issues with the Judiciary, he should raise them in other fora other than directly coming out in the public because this means that everyone with court cases should petition him,” he said.Another lawyer, Mr Ivan Bwowe, said the President should have probably instead called for a speedy legal appeal process.“This open letter to the CJ literally shows that the Judiciary has failed. The President should have used another arrangement,” he said.Call to courtsBut a former president of the Uganda Law Society, Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, said this should be a wake-up call to the courts, which should have quickly fixed hearing of the pending appeal.“By virtue of the Judiciary being independent, the President cannot give it orders, but as the fountain of honour he can express concern, and if people were doing their jobs the way they are supposed to be done, then all this would not have happened,” he said.The president of the Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association, Mr Ali Kankaka, welcomed developments.“You could not have allowed that execution [for auction] when there is a pending appeal. Attachment of the mosque was not part of the application that was made,” he said. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).