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Anti-gay law fight hits snag as key petitioners withdraw signatures

According to a letter by the lawyers, Hon Fox Odoi and Dr Mugisha say they will file their own petition at an appropriate time when deemed necessary.

A photo combo of the Dr Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director Sexual Minorities Uganda (L) and West Budama MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo (R)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The petition to challenge the newly signed Anti-Homsexuality Law before constitutional court has suffered a setback after two of its key petitioners withdrew signatures on claims that they didn’t give instructions to lawyers to have them joined as co-petitioners.

The duo who include West Budama MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo and Sexual Minorities Uganda Director Dr Frank Mugisha had been listed as the second and sixth petitioners respectively as 11 activists went to court on Tuesday seeking to annul the new legislation.

Other petitioners included veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, former Makerere University lecturer of law Prof Sylvia Tamale, and Pan-African feminist activist Solome Nakaweesi, Makerere University senior lecturer of law Dr Busingye Kabumba, Former executive director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) Jacqueline Nabagesera Kasha, Richard Smith Lusimbo, Eric Ndawula, William Apako and the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF).

However, just a day after the petition was received by the court, the two through their lawyers Akampumuza & Co Advocates say they did not give instructions to file a constitutional petition and distanced themselves from being part of the group that filed the petition number 015 of 2023.

“Our clients have informed us that they did not give instructions to file constitutional petition number 015 of 2023. Our clients consider your actions premature and hereby, demand that you exclude them from the said constitutional petition,” the letter read in part.

According to the letter, Hon Fox Odoi and Dr Mugisha say they will file their own petition at an appropriate time when deemed necessary.

“Our clients will file their own petition at an appropriate and tenable time. We hope that you will accord this matter the most urgent attention it deserves, and in any event remedy the harm done by close of business on May 30, 2023.”

In their petition, the activists claimed that the conduct of the Speaker of the 11th Parliament (Anita Among) during the debate and passing of the Bill amounted to bias and is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 20, 89 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

They, among others also claim that the law institutionalises a culture of hatred and creates a class of social misfits, which is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 2 (1) & (2), 20, 24 and 44 (a) of the Constitution, and is therefore null and void in its entirety.

“Your humble petitioners pray for a permanent injunction restraining the respondent (Attorney General) and any of its agents from the implementation of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023,” the petition filed on May 29 reads in part.

Mr Odoi, a former legal counsel to President Museveni, in the build-up to the passing of this anti-gay law, was very vocal and even came up with a minority report that he tabled before the House.

In a related development, Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa, the mover of the Bill, which was assented to by President Museveni on May 26, yesterday said he wants to apply to the Constitutional Court to be joined as “the friend of the court” but on the side of the Attorney General.

He also laughed at those who have since petitioned the court to nullify his enactment, saying they have filed against “air” because the anti-gay Act has not yet been gazetted.

When contacted over the matter, MP Odoi downplayed his withdrawal from the petition, saying he only created room for more interested people to come on board and that he has since filed a separate petition to fight against the same cause.

He said he still supports the other petition as they are fighting against the same anti-gay law, which he described as “draconian and oppressive” in nature.

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