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Commission of inquiry a mockery of justice

By Andrew Mwenda

A section of the public and critics have lately been saying Andrew Mwenda has changed. I don’t agree with them, and records of my publications going back in time bear me witness. Throughout my career, I have cherished the key cornerstones of journalism – truth and accuracy, fairness and balance. I hereby reproduce some of the pieces I did back in time highlighting the position I have taken on contentious issues involving allegations of corruption. I hope this article and many more to come will guide the debate on whether I have changed at all.

This article was published in the Sunday Monitor on March 7, 2004

So the commission of inquiry into corruption in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) became a theatre for personal fights and recriminations instead of helping us grasp the political and institutional sources of Corruption! It was apparent from the beginning that lady justice Julie Sebutinde is not a credible or reliable investigator. Why? She plays too much to the gallery.  Although she became popular because of how she handled the inquiry into corruption in the police force, Sebutinde did a great dis-service to the cause of justice and due process in this country.

She declared the police officer who appeared before guilty before she could even hear their case. Sebutinde would hurl insults at them, shut down their lawyers and throw tantrums at any witness who tried to defend them. Yes, the accused police officers could have been evil men but they were entitled to due process. The public angry with, an incompetent and corrupt police force cheered Sebutinde on, and she almost became a goddess. President Yoweri Museveni, seeking to gain political advantage, played to the gallery, too calling Sebutinde “my girl”

Ssebutinde made many pronouncements that Karim Hirjr had murdered his friend Kiddu that made headlines. But she still refused pleas from Karim to appear before her commission and defend himself.

Later she wrote a report recommending that Brig. Jim Muhwezi be investigated for the murder of Lt. Shalita, yet the Brigadier’s name during the proceedings of her commission, was never called before Sebutinde to answer to these allegations.

It is this lack of impartiality that she brought into the URA investigation. She accused Jack Bigirwa of stealing money from URA to build a house in Bushenyi. Bigirwa built the house in 1984, URA was created in 1992, and he joined it in 1994. She insulted Elly Rwakakooko, shouted down Steven Akabway, no one escaped her cobra bite. Her rants and recriminations against people who appeared before her were detestable in both matter and manner; and they are a classic example of how public anger can be exploited to undermine the cause of justice.

I raised this issue during the police probe mainly on radio one’s spectrum programme, and later in articles in The Monitor. I was told that the Commission of Inquiries’ Act allows the commission to adopt its own modus operandi, However, I still reject Sebutinde’s style because the spirit of the law would certainly not have been to undermine the principles of natural justice that someone should not be a judge in their own case, or a prosecutor and judge in the same case. Sebutinde was carried away by public acclaim and she turned herself into a public avenger against the police, and later a public executioner of people’s reputations.

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