Tuesday, January 30, 2018

UGANDA: Court orders Mwenda to pay Kazibwe UGX200M for defamation

CEO.CO.UG - Former vice president Specioza Kazibwe will be Shs200 richer if Mwenda is compelled to pay the damages.

Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe prayed for Shs600 million. Judge Stephen Musota awarded her Shs200 million. Andrew Mwenda will pay. And the Independent magazine must delete all ‘libelous’ articles about Dr Kazibwe from its website.

That’s the price for an article published by Mwenda’s Independent magazine in April 2010 that Judge Musota, of the Civil Division of the High Court, ruled had defamed Dr Kazibwe and injured her reputation.

In the ruling on the High Court civil case number 105 of 2010, Judge Musota awarded the former vice president Shs150 million as general damages and another Shs50 million as exemplary damages, permanent injunction restraining the magazine from future publication of defamatory articles about her person as well as removal of all libelous articles from the Independent website.

Andrew Mwenda’s Independent magazine ordered to pay Shs200 to Dr Kazibwe.

It’s the kind of ruling that press freedom advocates, which ironically was Mwenda’s forte in the yesteryear, will protest against given the controversies that have dogged Dr Kazibwe’s life while she still held public office.

The former VP, whose name will forever be pasted alongside a controversial valley dams construction in Karamoja that never was, dragged the Independent Publications Limited to court, claiming the article it had published had defamed her person.

The said article was published in the magazine issue number 105 on April 28, 2010. The article in question carried a story under headline, “Kazibwe squanders Sacco’s Shs300 million leaving Busoga region poor.”

Sacco is one of the many initiatives started by President Museveni in his Prosperity for All projects over the years.

The story, which was carried on the front page of the magazine in full colour with Kazibwe’s portrait, further exposed her alleged wrong deeds while holding different public offices, particularly in 2003 when she was a minister in-charge of agriculture and she caused a loss of Shs4 billion to taxpayers in the failed Valley Dam project.

According to the Independent article, the Shs300 million allegedly embezzled was meant for raising standards of the People with Disabilities (PWDs) in Busoga region.

Dr Kazibwe, a surgeon cum politician, hails from the same region and represented her home district of Iganga as MP for Kigulu South as well as during the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution.

Through her lawyer, Nile Law Chambers Advocates and Solicitors, Kazibwe argued that the story portrayed her as a corrupt, dishonest, and incompetent person who is unfit to head the Microfinance Support Project–an agency she briefly led.

She also argued that the article accused her of frustrating President Museveni’s Prosperity for All programme.

Earlier in 2000, Kazibwe was paid Shs2.5 billion to pursue further studies at the prestigious Harvard University, a bounty from taxpayers money as a compensation for being dropped from Cabinet.

In an interview with Sunday Monitor, Dr Kazibwe claimed she was falsely accused, targeted because she had become powerful and that being the almost indelible label of corruption that has had to live with since shooting to political fame in 1994 when she became the first woman to hold the office of vice president on the continent, are wrongly thrown at her.

Whether Judge Musota agrees with her claim of innocence in entirety or not is another matter. But to Mwenda, it is a big loss.

This news website could not readily establish whether Mwenda will appeal the ruling.

The Independent Publications Limited was started by Andrew Mwenda, a former fierce critic turned ally of President Museveni, in 2008 after the journalist left Monitor Publications Limited where he had earned a reputation for both exposing corruption and abuse of office and criticising Museveni’s government.

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