Senior Counsel Joseph Byamugisha, who shot to the limelight for defending President Museveni’s re-elections in 2001 and 2006 when Dr Kizza Besigye challenged his victory, has died.
His son, Mr Albert Byamugisha, told this newspaper that his father, 78, succumbed to cancer of the prostate yesterday at Nakasero Hospital in Kampala. He said he had been admitted to the facility for the last two weeks.
“Dad had prostate cancer and we didn’t know about it until a month ago. It worsened recently and two weeks ago,” Albert said in a telephone interview.
He said he will miss his father for the “mentorship he received from him” over the years.
Coming to the limelight
Dr Byamugisha, trading as JB Byamugisha Advocates, rose to the limelight in 2001 and 2006 after President Museveni named him to be on his legal defence team to battle election petitions against him by Dr Besigye.
Dr Besigye, who was the runner-up in the same polls, had petitioned the Supreme Court saying Mr Museveni was not validly elected.
At the hearing, Dr Byamugisha and Dr John Khaminwa led the team of President Museveni’s lawyers.
Because of his wise legal counsel, President Museveni again picked him to be on his defence team to handle Dr Besigye’s second poll petition in 2006.
One of the highlights of the 2006 submissions saw Dr Byamugisha admit that there were incidents of bribery by the NRM party during the said polls.
However, he was quick to urge the Supreme Court justices to disregard the incidents, saying they were not widespread and could not have affected the outcome of the election in a substantial manner to warrant the nullification of President Museveni’s victory.
Also in defence of bribery allegations against Mr Museveni, Dr Byamugisha, in his spirited submissions, held that under Section 64(3) of the Presidential Elections Act, bribery does not include food or refreshment; and facilitation would include hiring tents and fuel for vehicles.
It was his submission that money given out by the NRM on February 20, 2006, was to facilitate agents in terms of transport, lunch, stationery, among others, and that money was sent to party functions not party agents to facilitate elections.
In both petitions, the court upheld Mr Museveni’s victories.
He will also be remembered for getting courage to sue the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), following a client-lawyer disagreement.
Dr Byamugisha had been hired by NSSF as its lawyer since 1987 to carry out its legal work that also involved acting for it when it signed agreements with Alcon International Ltd.
But the interaction between them later did not go well and disputes arose that ended up in court for arbitration.
Described as the legal titan of his time, Dr Byamugisha went on representing very high-profile cases, including a recent one that involved Crane Bank in receivership Vs businessman Sudhir Ruparelia in a Shs397b commercial dispute.
Colleagues eulogise Dr Byamugisha
Counsel Peter Kabatsi, one of the founders of Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA), reminiscences how he closely worked with Dr Byamugisha on a number of cases.
“I worked with him on the 2006 presidential election petition and we were always on the same side. He was a very brilliant lawyer and we shall miss him and his expertise,” Mr Kabatsi eulogised.
“He was an all-round lawyer but he had specialised in commercial litigation. He even taught me commercial litigation and criminal law and insurance at university,” he added.
When asked what role he played in the 2006 poll petition, Mr Kabatsi revealed that Dr Byamugisha focused on President Museveni’s papers while he focused on the Electoral Commission.
Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka said he worked alongside Dr Byamugisha on President Museveni’s poll petition of 2001.
He described the deceased as a thorough lawyer, who read each page of the court documents and that he was also a good time keeper.
“He didn’t want lukewarm lawyers, you either knew the law or not but not in between,” Mr Kiryowa says.
Dr Byamugisha, who was also a former president of the Uganda Law Society, was married to Court of Appeal Justice Constance Byamugisha, who died in 2013.