The High Court in Kampala has issued an interim injunction restraining Makerere University from evicting hundreds of people who operate different businesses within the institution.
According to Civil Division Judge Boniface Wamala, his order will be in force pending the determination of the main application for a temporary injunction.
The order arises from an application filed last month by business operators under their umbrella, the Makerere University Business Owners Association. The association, which has 300 members, was challenging the decision by the Makerere University Council issued on July 1st 2022 to evict them on the grounds that it was illegal, irrational and unreasonable.
The University Council’s decision was based on the findings that numerous business activities that were operating on university premises do not relate to its core functions, while some businesses operate in non-designated spaces.
The businesses were accordingly given two weeks to vacate or else be charged with trespass. Those that were to be affected included canteens, mobile money stalls , shops , photo studios, photocopying machines, and restaurants.
But the applicants, being aggrieved with the decision, decided to petition the court through their lawyers led by Precious Nahabwe, arguing that the said allegations were not true, and that they were entitled to be given an opportunity to be heard before the decision to evict them was taken.
The Court heard that there is an imminent threat of being evicted from their business premises if this application is not granted. It will leave the main case without any value.
But on their part, Makerere University relied on an affidavit of the University Secretary, Yusuf Kiranda, and asked the court to dismiss this application. Kiranda stated that the applicant company has no locus to sue the university because it has no tenancy or other relationship with the university or its members.
As such, the university argued that the case had no merit and it was an abuse of the court process for them to sue.
But in his decision delivered to the parties via email, Justice Wamala has indicated that there is undisputed evidence that the applicant’s members have been operating business activities on Makerere University premises and, regarding how the said members started operating from there, is one of the questions to be investigated in the main case.
“It is also not in dispute that the respondent/Makerere has issued a notice of eviction against the applicant’s members to vacate the said premises,” said Wamala, adding that the applicant company has established that it is a registered entity as a company limited by guarantee and is suing on behalf of its members, which he said is sufficient material to provide the applicant with sufficient legal capacity to sue.”
He goes on: “That being the case, and as far as this application is concerned, the applicant has established that there is a need for preservation of the status quo, which is that the applicant’s members are still in occupation of the business premises.” The Applicant has further established that there is a pending main application for a temporary injunction with a likelihood of success and that there is imminent danger of implementation of the impugned decision by the respondent before the hearing and determination of the substantive application. ”
The High Court has thus granted an interim order saying that it is the settled position of the law that once the above are in place, the Court is duty bound to exercise its discretion and grant the remedies sought.