The High Court in Kampala has fixed dates to decide on two
separate applications challenging the decision by the government to install surveillance
devices in vehicles and other vessels.
The two applications were filed by city lawyer Male Mabirizi and Legal Brains
Trust, a non for profit organization head by lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde.
Last week, the government has signed a contract with Joint Stock
Company, a Russian digital security company to provide
digital trackers to all vehicles in the country.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Maj Gen. Jim Muhwezi the
Minister of Security assured the country that the only purpose for which the
government is going to track vehicles is to deal with insecurity. He added that
they have no intention of interfering in the privacy of citizens.
However reports later emerged that Joint Stock Company is facing
bankruptcy litigation in Moscow, court documents in Russia reveal. The
company is also facing other debt-related cases filed between 2019 and 2021 in
But Legal Brains Trust and Mabirizi were not happy with this
decision hence challenging it before the High Court.
Specifically, Legal Brains Trust asked the court to issue a temporary
injunction restraining the government and all her agents from enforcing the
presidential directives, cabinet resolutions, agreements, contracts, statutory
instruments and other documents by whatever name called;
through which the government wants to execute a programme of compulsory digital
surveillance of all motor vehicles, motorcycles and other vessels in Uganda
pending the determination of their main suit which is challenging the legality
of the decision.
“The impugned conduct of the respondent/Attorney General goes
beyond the permissible exercise of state power to support law enforcement and
engender national security. It is manifestly intrusive, plainly unlawful, and
unacceptable and demonstrably unjustifiable in a free and democratic society”,
reads the application in part.
It adds that “unless restrained by this Honourable Court, the conduct of
the respondent and other persons or authorities interested in the impugned
surveillance programme will create a chilling effect on freedom of expression,
freedom of association, freedom of movement and a bundle of other rights and
freedoms, and is thus detrimental to the public good or welfare or good
As such, the court heard that to foster Uganda’s efforts to combat crime
without compromising citizens’ constitutional values, the court should issue an
But when this matter came up for hearing before High Court Civil
Division Judge Boniface Wamala, the court directed lawyer Stanley Okecho who
was representing Legal Brains Trust to serve a copy of their application to the
Attorney General such that he can make his response to enable the court to deliver
its ruling on an application for an interim injunction on September 10 2021.
The Attorney General was represented by the Director of Civil
Litigation Martin Mwambutsya who was accompanied by Principal State Attorney
Earlier, the same court first proceeded on a similar case by Mabirizi who is
seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting any Uganda Government official from
implementing or acting on the strength of the Cabinet decision requiring every
motor vehicle to be fitted with tracking devices at the owner cost on grounds
of being unconstitutional.
But on this, the parties have been directed to put in their written submissions
and the judgement will be on September 30th 2021.
Asked to comment about the decision to give him a judgement date
two months from now, Mabirizi said that it is okay because his application is
omnibus and challenges several decisions he described as complicated, which
also need more time if just was to be delivered.