Soon after the 2016 presidential election in February, several sources told The Independent that Museveni invited top NRM party-leaning lawyers in the country to brainstorm on avenues the party can use to “capture the judiciary”. It is alleged that Museveni feels he has full control of the executive arm of government and the legislature which has most members being either NRM flag bearers andIndependents leaning towards NRM.
Some analysts say when Nakifuma MP Robert Kafeero Sekitoleko launched his botched private member’s Bill that sought to amend the age-limit provision for judges in the Constitution, he was moving in this well-orchestrated direction. The Bill which came to be known as the ‘Age Limit Bill” ran into trouble when the public which was unaware that the motion moved in parliament was driven by growing anxiety as Museveni loses his cadre judges, interpreted it as a roundabout way of removing the same age barrier on Museveni.
Museveni who has been in power since 1986 will be 77-years old at the time of the next scheduled election in 2021 will be barred under the law which limits the age of presidential election contestants to 75 years. There is a general belief that Museveni will spring a Constitutional Amendment to remove the age barrier and cling to power.
Judicial Service Commission not sworn-in
Away from the politics, even the technocrats within the judiciary are starting to raise concerns about the process of appointing top judges. There is no storm here yet but the precipitating winds are gaining momentum, according to some quarters.
Then Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission, Kagole Kivumbi, told The Independent on Nov.01 that they are aware that some top positions in the top courts of the land are soon to be vacant. He said, however, for now there is no programme to replace them because the newly appointed Judicial Service Commission has not issued instructions.
In September, Museveni appointed Justice Benjamin Isingoma Kabiito, to be the new Judicial Service Commission Chairman after Justice James Ogoola retired early in the year having clocked 70 years. The law provides for the chairman of the Commission to provide leadership when appointments are made. Justice Kabiito is deputized by Supreme Court Justice Faith Mwondha. Other commissioners are former Uganda Law Society president Ruth Sebatindira, Norah Matovu Winyi, Laban Nnini Kirya, Rose Nyakikongoro, Amongin Aporu and Justin A. Mugabi. Kagole said they are waiting for instructions from this new team.
“Whether candidates will apply for the positions or if we will advertise will depend on what the chairman and his team decides. As of now the new leadership has not yet been sworn in and there’s nothing taking place,” he said.
Some observers like Mayambala are critical of such delays and the uncertainty they create.
“The modalities of recruitment have since changed,” Mayambala told The Independent, “You saw what happened in 2015 when the chief Justice and his deputy were appointed. How it will come this time, we just have to wait and see.”