THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA
CIVIL SUIT NO.488/98
REV.MATHEW ODONG & 4 OTHERS……………………………PLAINTIFF.
ATTORNEY GENERAL & 3 OTHERS…………………………… DEFENDANT
BEFORE: THE HON. MR. JUSTICE P. MUGAMBA
The five plaintiffs were Catholic priests serving in the Archdiocese of Gulu. Sadly, one of them, Rev. Fr. Dr. Vincent E. Okot Obura has since departed this life. This action is against the four defendants jointly and severally. Besides the Attorney General, no other defendant entered a defence of any sort. An interlocutory judgment was accordingly entered against the three defendants. When hearing commenced the defence filed by the Attorney General was struck out because it offended against the requirements of Order 6 rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Rules. In consequence hearing proceeded ex parte.
A press conference addressed by Colonel James Kazini then Commander of the Fourth Division, UPDF and Lt. Shaban Bantariza then Public Relations Officer, Fourth Division, UPDF appears to be the genesis of this action. The press conference attracted many other people from the locality of the Gulu Municipality. Apart from the press conference which was recorded on tape and played on Radio Uganda and Radio Freedom, a local FM station, there was a press release. Both the press conference and the press release named the five plaintiffs amongst the eight people who were collaborating with the Lords Resistance Army of Joseph Kony as co-coordinators. They were said to have been part of the group that planned the abduction of girls from Aboke School and to have been involved in activities in Kitgum and elsewhere during the previous year. Rebels who had surrendered to UPDF were said to have identified those named and police, after I was informed, had finished its investigations. The defendants had made it known, that they were innocent, to the Commander and to others in authority but no apology was drawn and no retraction of the allegations was made. Hence this action.
The plaintiffs pray for general damages for libel, slander and defamation, punitive/aggravated damages, interest on both general damages and punitive/aggravated damages at the rate of 26% from the date of filing this suit till payment in full and costs of the suit.
It was an undertaking on the part of Counsel for the plaintiff to file written submissions but for reasons best known to himself he defaulted. As issues were not framed prior to this hearing I consider them to be:-
1. Whether the plaintiffs were defamed?
2. Whether the defendants are liable?
3. What relief if any is available?
Concerning the first issue, four witnesses were called on behalf of the plaintiffs to prove that the plaintiffs were defamed. The four witnesses were Rev. Msgr Matthew Odong (PW1), Rev. Fr. Matthew Okun Lagoro (PW2), Rev. Fr. Isaias Okelo