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HON. BART M. KATUREEBE: Commercial Dispute Resolution: The Ugandan Perspective

From:          Updated: 2020-12-23   

Editor's Note: The Second Seminar of the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People's Court and Appointment of New Members of the International Commercial Expert Committee was held successfully on December 8, 2020. The theme of this seminar is the Latest Developments of International Commercial Dispute Resolution Mechanism and the Research on Relevant Issues on International Law. The participants, on site or virtually, had discussions on the two topics, the Development of International Commercial Dispute Resolution Mechanism: New Situation and New Challenges and the Research and Application of International Law Related Issues in the Post-Pandemic Era, respectively. The texts of speech delievered by HON. BART M. KATUREEBE as the representative of the new committee member is hereby posted on the CICC's website for the public's reference.



Former Chief Justice [Emeritus] of Uganda 

Mr. President

Distinguished Participants

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am extremely honored and privileged to have been invited to participate in this very important Seminar. It is my first time to participate, and I believe it is the first time someone has participated in this Forum from Uganda. I therefore propose to give you a very brief overview of the legal regime obtaining in Uganda with regard to the resolution of commercial disputes.

Before I do so however, let me point out that for a very long time Uganda’s laws were a product of the British system. Many Acts of Parliament were modeled on British laws. Most business entities doing business in Uganda were from Europe or America. In almost all commercial contracts there would be an arbitration clause that would invariably provide for the application of English law and for the arbitration to be conducted in London.

Today the Ugandan commercial landscape is much more varied. Most of the Infrastructure projects going on in Uganda particularly in Roads and Energy are being undertaken by Chinese Entities. There are also many private Chinese Entities investing in various fields in Uganda such as factories, mining and agriculture. This, to my mind, makes it imperative that these Chinese entities and businesses investing in Uganda should get to know and understand the legal regime obtaining in Uganda. It is also important that the Ugandan entities dealing with the Chinese entities do understand the operative legal regime in China particularly with regard to the resolution of commercial disputes that may arise. If awards or judgments are made in China or in Uganda, how are such awards or judgments to be recognized and enforced?

Permit me now to highlight the Legislative framework particularly on Arbitration and Mediation. I should point out that the High Court has original jurisdiction on all matters in Uganda. But where the Parties have an arbitration clause in their contract, the law demands that the Parties go to arbitration, and can appeal to Court on very limited specified grounds.  

The Judicature Act provides for Court annexed arbitration where the Court may refer a matter to a special referee or arbitrator under an Order of Court.

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act provides for Domestic Arbitration, International Commercial Arbitration and the enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

The Judicature (Commercial Court Division) (Mediation) Rules, 2007 were operationalized by the Commercial Court on 1st November 2009, making mediation a mandatory procedure for all litigants. This is under review as some Advocates are opposed to mediation and tend to abuse the process thereby causing further delays.

With regard to the enforcement of Arbitral Awards, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act recognizes the enforcement of Arbitral Awards made in pursuance of an arbitration agreement between states that are members of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (The New York Convention) of which Uganda is a Party. The Act also recognizes the enforcement of awards made under the International Center for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID). In one recent case between a Ugandan Entity, Uganda Telecom Ltd and an Australian Entity, Hi-Tech Telecom PTY Ltd, an Australian Court held that an Arbitral Award made in Uganda was enforceable in Australia since both Australia and Uganda are Parties to the UN Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

The Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act provides for the enforcement of judgments obtained in the Courts of territories of the Commonwealth and other foreign countries which accord reciprocal treatment to judgments given in Uganda. 

The Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act applies to judgments obtained in the Superior Courts of UK, other Commonwealth Countries and the Republic of Ireland. Obviously what I have outlined above is not all. One would need to study these Legislations and see how Courts have interpreted and applied them.

My own view is that we should recognize that business people are more interested in having their disputes resolved as quickly and as fairly as possible. To that end, I believe that all efforts and mechanisms should be put in place to enable effective mediation of commercial disputes. Where there is a successful mediation, the parties are more likely to be more satisfied with the amicable decision and go on with their business.

Once again I thank the organizers for inviting me to this Seminar.

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*The original text is Chinese and has been translated into English for reference only. If there is any inconsistency or ambiguity between the Chinese version and the English version, the Chinese version shall prevail.