An international lawyer acting on behalf of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, might not represent him in Uganda’s courts after the government reportedly declared him a persona non grata.
Mr Robert Amsterdam is one of the lawyers who has come up to defend Mr Kyagulanyi against the treason charges facing him.
Mr Amsterdam’s role is supposed to be technical, advisory and to do research.
In diplomacy, a persona non grata is a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country’s government.
The government claims that Mr Kyagulanyi, who is currently remanded in Gulu Prison, is one of the suspects who allegedly pelted stones at one of the vehicles in the President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy, smashing its rear windscreen.
When contacted, the spokesperson of the Directorate of Immigration and Citizenship Jacob Siminyu, who said he is on leave, referred Daily Monitor to the Internal Affairs ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr Benon Mutambi.
A text message sent to Dr Mutambi went unanswered.
But the State Minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania said he is not aware if Mr Amsterdam is not welcome to Uganda.
“If the person [declared persona non grata] is a foreigner, it would involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Mr Kania said.
Attempts to get a comment from Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and State Minister for International Cooperation Henry Oryem Okello were futile.
Mr Medard Sseggona, one of Bobi Wine’s lawyers, said if Uganda has declared Mr Amsterdam a persona non grata, it is a primitive decision, which would indicate the government is panicking.
“[It would imply] the [government] thinks he, Mr Amsterdam, can only be useful if he is in Kampala. We can work with any lawyer across the globe,” Mr Sseggona said.
On Saturday, Mr Amsterdam, through an article titled ‘Uganda’s brutal treatment of MPs is enabled by global indifference’, which appeared online on the Guardian, called for visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for committing human rights abuses.
“These types of individualised sanctions are a very effective deterrent against future attacks on human rights while limiting the collateral damage to innocent citizens,” Mr Amsterdam wrote.
Mr Robert Amsterdam is a Canadian international lawyer of Amsterdam & Partners, law firm which has offices in Washington, DC and London.
His law firm is frequently sought after for its unique practice areas which explore synergies between public international law, international criminal law, and political advocacy.
Meanwhile, in a tweet on Saturday, Mr Nicholas Opiyo, another of Mr Kyagulanyi’s lawyers, said armed and plain-clothed men had (at about 3am) ordered (Henry Komakech), who is also part of Mr Kyagulanyi’s legal team, to open his door, an order Mr Komakech ignored.
Elsewhere, the Saturday Vision reported that Mr Kyagulanyi’s bodyguard, Eddy Ssebuufu, has been arrested.
But both the army and the police have distanced themselves from Mr Ssebuufu’s arrest.
There are also reports that Mr Kyagulanyi’s personal disc jockey, David Bwanika, was arrested.