After a majority vote by Uganda Law Society members today, Attorney General Peter Nyombi was kicked out of a professional body that lays strong emphasis on competency, independence and ethics of the legal profession.
ULS members accused Nyombi of being incompetent in his job as the chief legal advisor to government. Meeting at Imperial Royale hotel, the ULS considered a petition lodged by the Uganda Catholic Lawyers Society (UCLS).
The UCLS accused Nyombi of failing to properly advise President Museveni not to reappoint retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki, an act which contravened the Constitution.
The petitioners also faulted Nyombi for supporting the appointment of former army chief Aronda Nyakairima as minister for Internal Affairs, without retiring him from the army. Nyombi's alleged "poor judgment" was cited as being behind the loss of the 2011 Constitutional court petition in favour of Severino Twinobusingye, which cost the country Shs 11bn.
Nyombi also wrote a 12-page letter to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, urging her to expel four MPs sacked by the ruling party. But this letter was condemned as a sign that he lacked the minimum legal expertise.
Although the ULS membership was sharply divided on Nyombi's suspension, members eventually voted to suspend him to show displeasure with his work.
"As the last bastion of sanity, we have to prevail on Nyombi because all the decades I have been in this profession, I have never seen an Attorney General who is misleading like Nyombi," said Krispus Ayena, in support of the motion.
But Kiryowa Kiwanuka argued that Nyombi was a member of the society by law and no provision would allow the nullification or suspension of his membership so long as he remained an enrolled advocate and attorney general. Those who supported this view included, Edgar Tabaro, Frank Kanduho, Jet Mwebaze and Florence Kiconco, the principal legal advisor to the president.
The meeting later dismissed concerns that Nyombi had not been heard because he had waived his right to be heard, by writing that the proceedings would be in contravention of the sub judice rule. When the matter was put to a vote Nyombi's advocates lost.
"By a majority decision we resolved that Mr Nyombi be issued with a certificate of incompetence, be referred to law council for disciplinary action as well as be suspended from Uganda Law society for continuously misadvising the president," said Nicholas Opiyo, the ULS secretary general, after the ruling.
Nyombi couldn't be reached for comment by press time. But in response to a related story last month. Nyombi said: "For argument's sake, how have I misadvised the president and even if it was the fact, which is not the case, does that mean that I should not be a member of the Uganda Law Society?" he asked.
"By the way, as they complain, they need to be reminded that no one has powers apart from a court of law to determine as to whether I have misadvised anyone. Even the president has not complained. They should just come out and challenge any opinion of mine that is misleading and not in accordance with the law," he said.
Nyombi's suspension will not be the first in the history of ULS. Former AG Khiddu Makubuya, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Gen David Sejusa, the Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura and former Director of Public Prosecutions Richard Butera, were suspended.
Odoki in trouble:
Meanwhile, the legal minds also resolved to challenge the legality of reappointing former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki on a contract of two years. They also resolved to write to Odoki asking him to reject the appointment. They also agreed to petition Parliament to decline his approval.
But Odoki today told The Observer:"I cannot discuss that; I am not a court of law to determine what is legal or not. So, whoever challenges that, should go to court."