KAMPALA —President Museveni has launched a scathing attack at agitators of Judiciary independence—telling off the Chief Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo that, his administration will never grant such powers to ‘you’.
Museveni instead said, he had for long observed as pressing, the need to cut Judiciary powers since the concept is being abused by some judicial officers.
Museveni insists that the judiciary cannot be entirely independent of the other arms of the government and proposes that there should be a convergence of principles of justice because he sees a problem if it’s only the judiciary that is benefiting to the detriment of the citizens.
“Independence from whom? You cannot be independent of the Ugandan people. So, I would like some amendment to this idea. It is correct that the Judiciary should be independent for sure, but it should be independent within a convergent national system,” Museveni said.
“You could not have talked of judicial independence under [president] Idi Amin”.
Museveni made the remarks on Wednesday while officiating at the fifth Annual Memorial Ceremony of the first Ugandan Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, at the Judiciary headquarters in Kampala.
Kiwanuka died on September 21, 1972 and since then, the country has heard contradicting accounts pointing to the possibility that he was killed shortly after his abduction.
Museveni’s reaction came after the Uganda Law Society President Bernard Oundo accused a section of government agencies especially the armed forces of not respecting and implementing court orders.
Oundo said such practices threaten the independence of the Judiciary, rule of law and constitutionalism.
But Museveni explained that sometimes decisions and orders of the courts are not implemented because they do not rhyme with the interests of both the population and the political side, a trend that creates a lacuna in the administration of justice. Museveni cited the eviction of families from chunks of land for the benefit of one person.
On his part, CJ Owiny-Dollo thanked the family of Benedicto Kiwanuka for giving Uganda their son who served as a politician, as a private practitioner and Chief Justice of Uganda whom he described as “a principled man whose trademark sense of righteousness and commitment to the straight ways of justice” put him at loggerheads with the infamous Government of President Idi Amin to an extent of taking his life.
“The man who took oath to protect the life and properties of Ugandans (Idi Amin) took the life of one of the persons he took oath to protect,” CJ Owiny-Dollo said.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Emmanuel Ni Ashie Kote, a Ghanaian Supreme Court Judge, spoke highly about the independence and the financial autonomy of the Judiciary for it to perform better.
“We should all work towards the financial autonomy of the Judiciary,” Prof. Kote said.
The Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nobert Mao promised to support the President in strengthening the Judiciary and other arms of Government to work as a team.
“We believe that the Judiciary has changed a lot. We promise to support your agenda of the whole Government approach of ensuring that we build a strong state,” Mr. Mao said.
Mao, who is also the President of DP to which Chief Justice Kiwanuka belonged, reawakened the call to the Government of Uganda to get involved in finding his remains to be accorded a befitting burial.
“We would be happy like the Congolese even if we just received a tooth. We would at least be able to bury that tooth. The technology exists. There are now people in Argentina known as ‘forensic archeologists’. We know roughly where he could have been buried but we need the support of the Government to get involved. It will be a glorious day, Your Excellency, when our country finally buries a man whose dream was to have a Ugandan state whose foundation is Truth and Justice,” Minister Mao said, adding that as the country reflects on how he lived, more reflection should be on how died, a manner which he said speaks more about the human rights and democracy in our country.
Principal Judge Emeritus, Dr. Yorokamu Bamwine and the late Justice Leticia Mukasa Kikonyogo who died at the age of 77 years were recipients of the Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka Awards 2022 for their distinguished service with integrity in the Judiciary.
Justice Kikonyogo was the first Ugandan woman Magistrate Grade I from 1971–1973; the first woman Chief Magistrate between 1973 and 1986; the first woman to be appointed High Court Judge in 1986 and who later also sat on the Court of Appeal. She was later appointed the first woman Deputy Chief Justice of Uganda.
Chief Justice Kiwanuka was murdered during Amin’s administration on September 21, 1972, after he was abducted from his chambers at the High Court in Kampala.
Five years since the Judiciary declared an annual memorial lecture in his honour every September 21, every memorial lecture has been dominated by calls for respect of the independence of the Judiciary.
The colourful ceremony was attended by hundreds of guests physically and online. The High Court event was attended physically by among others the family of the late Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, Chief Justice Emeritus Benjamin Odoki, the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka; Minister of State for Defense, Oboth Oboth, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Judges, retired Justices, representatives from Uganda Law Society ULS), Senior police and Prisons officers and development partners.