UJA’s Private Company Status Sparks Outrage

A group of journalists has raised concerns about the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) misrepresenting itself and receiving substantial funds despite not being a public body. Last month, Justice Musa Ssekaana of the High Court ruled that UJA is actually a private company, not a public entity. The case was brought to court by five journalists, including Abubaker Lubowa, Zambaali Bulasio Mukasa, Emmanuel Nkata, Hasifu Ssekiwunga, and Martin Kimbowa, who contested irregularities in the body’s elections. They accused the UJA leadership, headed by Mathias Rukundo (President) and Emmanuel Kirunda (Secretary General), of improperly excluding them from the race due to a lack of a voters’ register as required in the UJA constitution.

The group’s lawyer, George Musisi of PACE Advocates, revealed that the case was dismissed with costs due to UJA being incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 1983. Consequently, the court ruled that the petitioners had no grounds to challenge a private company, which is not subject to judicial review. Despite disagreeing with the ruling, the journalists respected it. Lawyer Musisi emphasized that UJA operates with a dual personality, sometimes presenting itself as an association of over 300 members, while other times it claims to be a private entity governed by the Companies Act with only five subscribers.

During a press briefing, Abubaker Lubowa praised Justice Musa Ssekaana for shedding light on UJA’s true nature. Lubowa expressed dismay that journalists had unknowingly contributed their hard-earned money to what turned out to be a private company, not a public association. He called for investigation and action from the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, the Inspectorate of Government (IGG), and the Director of Criminal Investigations Directorate, as UJA had allegedly received public funds under false pretenses.

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Regarding the next steps, Lubowa stated that the journalists themselves must decide whether to remain associated with UJA as a private company or appeal the High Court’s decision. He urged journalists, donors, and the government to be aware that the entity they have been funding is not a public body but a private company. The course of action will be determined after consulting with fellow journalists.

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