Wednesday, June 26, 2013
DEMYSTIFYING THE LDC PHOBIA
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB (Hons)–Mak; Dip. LP Candidate–LDC]
There is deeply rooted fear of Law Development Centre (LDC), in many people’s minds. The picture painted of the Centre, by those within and outside, is that of a place akin to hell on earth, a monster and so on. Further, it is widely believed that the people in charge of and manning the centre i.e. the Professional Advisors, are mean, dog-hearted and malicious, ready to fail students, in order to avoid competition in law practice. For the eight months that I have been at the Centre, I have since discovered that the above fears are largely baseless and mere exaggerations of the challenges posed by the Centre and the nature of rigorous training the students undergo while there.
On a sad note however, regarding the conduct of Professional Advisors (PAs), I have found that some of them, in the course of teaching, take advantage of the fear associated with them and the Centre, to psychologically torture and really terrorize students into submission, to their desired viewpoints. This misconceived fear has made some of our PAs to assume so much power that they literally bulldoze students who attempt to present contrary views in class that are deemed undesirable. I have personally experienced and also heard complaints of the wrath of three notable Advisors namely, Mrs Mutabingwa K. Annette, Mr Kamba Hassan and Ms Nyangoma Patricia.
Mrs Mutabingwa has harassed and embarrassed me in class, on two occasions, by being utterly dismissive and contemptuous of me and my contributions, for no good reason, whatsoever! The first time was during second term, in one of the Criminal Proceedings sessions, a subject that she heads. I put up my hand, about three different times, trying to ask and/or contribute to the discussion, but she just hushed me up, in the most rude manner you can imagine - such that after class, some of my colleagues asked me why she didn’t want to listen to me. They wondered whether her and I have any prior personal conflicts or grudges. I said that as far as I know, none exist.
The second time was yesterday, again in the Criminal Proceedings session, when I attempted to submit that as per Problem Question No. 2, the army General Court Martial that tried and convicted an accused person for the offence of aggravated robbery, subsequently sentencing him to suffer death, was improperly constituted and that therefore, this was a sufficient ground for appeal. No sooner had I finished my submission than she hurriedly dismissed my averment as “a mere technicality, not intended for this problem.” My colleagues laughed. Surely, as lawyers, we know that this is not true. Certainly proceedings before an improperly constituted court are a total nullity. Later, I put up my hand, to ask what would happen on appeal, where the trial court was improperly constituted. She asked me whom the question was addressed to. I responded, “To the class and you, Madam.” Being rude, she scolded me for insisting on my technicality and never allowed my question to receive an answer – not even from the class! This time round, the whole class was reduced to total silence, I guess in disbelief especially, considering that she was patient with, tolerated and listened to other people’s questions and submissions, including the not-so-nice ones! As an after thought, she later belatedly tried to respond to my question, but rather scornfully.
Mr Kamba Hassan is another notorious one. Fond of ridiculing students, Mr Kamba is thought to be a serious joker of sorts, but upon close scrutiny, one discovers that he is a really annoying bully. This fact is increasingly becoming apparent. For instance, during last Friday’s Civil Proceedings moot, Mr Kamba unreasonably denied me the opportunity to present a preliminary objection, to the effect that the plaint did not disclose a cause of action, which is fatal in law. He said that I should “wait for the right time to present it.” Well, as fate would have it, the right time never came. The plaintiff’s counsel led all their witnesses and when it came to our turn, the defendant’s counsel, I asked whether the right time had come for me to present my objection to the plaint. Mr Kamba looked at me contemptuously and advised me not to waste court’s time, saying that my objection had no merit and was therefore, rejected. He overruled my objection even before listening to it! When he noticed that I wasn’t happy about his approach, he asked me to state it briefly, but I also declined, saying that “It is of no effect since you have already made up your mind about it.” He then told us a scenario where him and others clashed with Justice Owiny Dollo in court, saying that no matter what the judge says or does, as counsel you shouldn’t be angry, but simply oblige and continue saying “Most obliged, my Lord,” even if he or she calls you “stupid.” I shall have my take on this shortly. He also resorted to ridiculing me indirectly, faulting me for getting angry.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect my preliminary objection to close the moot, but I intended to raise it simply for learning purposes. It has happened in the past with other amiable and courteous Professional Advisors like Mr Bulamu Mayanja, who allows you to present your preliminary objection, rules on its merits, either allowing or overruling it and if it is allowed, he says that nevertheless, the moot will proceed for learning purposes. That’s the way to go. Incidentally, in Mr Kamba’s judgment, we, the defendants, won this moot, for just the very reasons that I intended to raise in my objection. Really funny, isn’t it? But because I wasn’t allowed to argue it, few students actually understood why the plaintiffs lost the moot, due to defects in their pleadings.
As for Ms Nyangoma Patricia, this one even threatened to fail me in oral examinations. “He will fail! This one!” she roared characteristically, pointing at me. Many of you recall the ugly incident we had in a certain moot, in second term, where I resigned my position of Court Clerk, because the judge, Ms Nyangoma, was shouting at me and the class generally. Thank God, for I didn’t fail after orals. She is widely believed, among the student community, to nurse regular mood swings.
Now, it is my contention that some Professional Advisors, like the above mentioned, have clearly exaggerated their power and importance as such. They have carefully read the minds of many students and discovered that most – if not all – of them go through the Centre as frightened beings, ready to condone and take wholeheartedly, everything and anything thrown at them, just for the sake of passing. Probably these PAs suffered the same fate and are now further sowing the seeds of tyranny and fear. It is unfortunate that for a long time this unwarranted phobia has reduced lawyers to docility and cowardice, in the sense that they cannot even protect themselves from manifest abuse. Learning friends, the secret lies in overcoming this artificial fear and demanding due respect. As former USA President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “All we have to fear is fear itself.”
My take on Mr Kamba’s advice that even if a judge and by extension a Professional Advisor, abuses you, that you should be meek and humble, is that this is total nonsense and should be ignored with all the contempt it deserves! People, you should always demand due respect because as the Bible says, you are wonderfully and fearfully made. You can’t afford to settle for less! During my time at Makerere University, there was a lecturer who was fond of insulting her students and the Police Force. She did so for a long time. One day she insulted me before the whole class. I humbly but strongly, castigated her in an article like this one and from then on, she changed her bad manners, became non-insolent and more respectful to students, up to now. This is the power of speaking out for self-liberation especially, through the written word. You needn’t and shouldn’t shout at the judges and PAs, just as I didn’t shout at Mrs Mutabingwa, Mr Kamba or Ms Nyangoma, in the above situations. There are more civilized ways, like this one, to express displeasure and demystify this phobia without necessarily being rowdy and ill-mannered, yourself.
Lastly, it is said and widely believed that it is suicidal to be critical of LDC and its officials. I would like to state categorically clear that I am neither bothered nor intimidated by empty and clearly exaggerated threats. Like I said earlier, Ms Nyangoma herself, threatened me with failure, but nothing happened to me. The same was said during my Makerere days, as alluded to earlier, but I passed. If I am convinced that what I am doing is the right thing, not even death will scare me. In any case, the world is in constant need of martyrs and I shall gladly pay the ultimate price, just for the sake of fighting evil and upholding the truth. “Say the truth and the truth will set you free,” thus says the Bible. Remember also that whereas the first slaves were created by force, their cowardice perpetuated their slavery. I am telling you, you don’t want to end up as miserable as that.