In 2019, Aboneka and Kirya dragged the Attorney General before the High Court for alleged failure to translate the 1995 constitution into the 56 indigenous languages, promote awareness and ensure that all training and military institutions review their curriculums to incorporate and teach the constitution as required.
The Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka
The High Court in Kampala
has allowed counsel Michael
Aboneka and Martins Kirya to continue pursuing their suit against the government for alleged failure to translate the
1995 Constitution into indigenous languages.
Civil Division High Court Judge, Boniface Wamala made the ruling after rejecting the government’s prayers not to allow the
matter to proceed to a full trial on grounds that
the petitioners filed the
case wrongly before the High Court instead of taking it to the
In 2019, Aboneka and Kirya dragged the Attorney General before the High Court for
alleged failure to translate the 1995 constitution into the 56 indigenous languages, promote awareness and ensure that all training and military institutions
review their curriculums to incorporate and teach the constitution as required.
According to the petition, the
government committed itself in the third schedule of the constitution to promote public awareness by
translating and disseminating the 1995 constitution in indigenous
languages to enable all Ugandans to understand and appreciate their God-given rights.
However, the petitioners argue that more than 20 years after the promulgation
of the constitution, the government has failed to fulfil its commitments, which is unconstitutional. They wanted the court to issue an order to the government to cause the review of the curriculum of educational and training institutions to promote the full
awareness and teaching of the constitution.
They also want the
same court to issue another order to the government to introduce regular programs
on the national media to disseminate the constitution. The two also asked the High
court to order the government to consider the visually impaired
persons and the deaf through customizing the translated versions of the constitution into usable formats.
However, when the matter came up for hearing in
2021, State Attorney Moses Mugisha from the Attorney General's Chambers asked the court to dismiss the suit, saying it lacked
merit because it had wrongly been fined in the High Court as a notice of motion as opposed
to filing it as an application for Enforcement of fundamental rights and
The government further
argued that the lawyers didn’t have the right to sue the Attorney General, who is the official representative of the government in civil matters because they did not have instructions from
the general public to sue on their behalf. However,
in his ruling to the parties delivered via email, Justice Wamala dismissed the Attorney General's submissions with costs, saying that the case should go on and be heard and
determined on its merits since the lawyers sued in their individual capacities.
"Their suit is brought in their capacity as individuals affected by the breach by the state of its constitutional duty. .....
As such this matter was not brought in the public interest or as a
public interest litigation", said Wamala. Adding that " in the circumstances,
therefore, this matter was neither for alleged infringement of any fundamental or
other human right or freedom under Chapter Four of the Constitution, therefore, nor in the public interest".
According to the Judge, the government's lawyer
appeared to give an impression that the only way of accessing the courts in the enforcement of rights and duties provided for under the constitution is through a filing under the Judicature Fundamental and Other Human Rights and Freedoms
Enforcement Procedure of Rules of 2019 and through constitutional
interpretation, which he said was very far away from the truth.
"In the instant case,
despite the mixture of pleadings based on personal
claims with those improperly based on public interest,
I find that the Plaintiffs/lawyers have established that they enjoyed a right to be taught the Constitution at
all levels of education; and to access translated versions of the Constitution in their local languages", said Wamala.
As such, the Judge ruled that the objections
previously raised by the Attorney General who is the only respondent in this
matter have no merit. In 2015, Aaron Hayoda and Samuel Serunjogi, both concerned citizens
petitioned the Constitutional court challenging the government’s failure to translate the Constitution into the 56 indigenous languages.
They argued that failure to translate the Constitution into native
languages is inconsistent with the Constitution and hinders peoples’ awareness
of their rights, duties, and obligations.