After a long and difficult battle with the relevant minister, Uganda’s law society has staved off attempts to subject members to double taxation. The government had included lawyers on a schedule of professions and businesses that had to apply for local licences to ‘trade’, though they are already taxed via practice certification processes. Judge Ssekaana Musa had to deal with similar challenges to the schedule from members of Uganda’s pharmaceutical association and organised members of the country’s forwarding and clearing business. In all three cases, he found the 2017 proposals would introduce a system that amounted to double taxation. This was impermissible and the minister’s actions were thus declared invalid. In an obiter note at the end of his judgment on the law society’s challenge, Judge Musa urged that the government consult with the law society to avoid ‘further litigation’.
It made a great splash in the media when Ugandan civil servant Stephen Kisembo was arrested and charged with spying for Sudan. But when the high court of Uganda acquitted Kisembo there was little interest. In my view, however, given the sensitive nature of the allegations, the trial set an extraordinary example of transparency – all the more so since it was held in a country not usually associated with concern for openness.
The story as it emerged from the judgment in Kisembo’s trial reads like a spy-thriller. And though the decision by Judge Stephen Mubiru has been redacted on the Uganda Legal Information Institute site, much of the edited information – including the crucial question of the country whose diplomats were allegedly receiving information from Kisembo – has been in the public domain and widely available on the Internet for some time.