By Feliciah Kanyesigye
The incorruptible justice of `tough love’ dies at 65
Mummy was tough, very tough and when you combine her with daddy, you can imagine.”
That was Constance Byamugisha Kategaya son speaking at her funeral service on March 22 at All Saints Cathedral in Kampala. His frankness sent the mourners into bouts of laughter.
Born on December 16, 1948 to the late Yosiah and Erina Mpumbya Kategaya, Connie as she was fondly known, succumbed to breast cancer on March 21 at city hospital. She passed on at around 4am barely two weeks after the death of his elder brother, Eriya Kategaya, who had been Uganda’s first deputy prime minister.
The fallen judge is a sister to the late Eriya Kategaya who died barely a month ago in Nairobi. Justice Costance has been battling with breast Cancer for quite a long time. Her illness could not allow her bid farewell to her brother in Itojo Ntungamo.
Her children said she was admitted to hospital on March 8 and failed to recover even after she was transferred to another hospital. The late Byamugisha is survived by five children and 11 grandchildren. Another of her children described their mother as tough but thanked her for raising them to be responsible adults.
“She had always been lively trying to put us back in line and insisted on seeing her grandchildren more often,” he said.
“It is so hard for me because it’s been a few weeks since my brother died,” Gwennie Kategaya, her sister told The Independent.
Gwennie described Connie as “upright, incorruptible and very clever”. “Although people never used to understand her, she was a great lady,” she added. Speaking on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said, as a judge, Justice Byamugisha kept her political beliefs to herself.
“She was modest but proud of her achievements, very conscious of the law and made her judgments in the simplest manner,” Mbabazi, who is a lawyer and former attorney general, said.
Having met her in his first year in law school, Amama said Connie took part in the struggle against military dictatorship during former president Idi Amin’s regime. “We lost her and her struggle when she joined the judiciary,” he said.
Just like her brother, Connie was praised for her incorruptible character. According to James Mukasa Sebugenyi, president Uganda Law Society (ULS), she was “wonderful, kind, tough, decisive and incorruptible”.
Justice Constance has been acting deputy chief justice since November 2011 till March 21. “She mentored many judges; she was a good role model especially for women judges,” Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki told the mourners at the funeral service, “It is difficult to say farewell to a colleague who we have known for a long time. She joined judiciary where she has remained till now.”
Justice Steven Kavuma who was appointed shortly after her death to replace her, said, “She was dedicated to serving the country, honest and straight forward. She has been a lady of integrity.”
“It is unfortunate that it comes barely two weeks after the death of Eriya. She was a great judge and a wonderful woman. She could have achieved more than she has,” said Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Kahinda Otaffire in his speech.
Dr Edward Muhima, former Bishop of North Kigezi Diocese who delivered the sermon during the funeral service agreed that she was incorruptible.
“She was tenderhearted despite the toughness as said. A combination missing in majority Ugandans,” Muhima said.
The renowned female activist, Miria Matembe described Connie as “a tough woman of integrity, consistent in her profession, and without tolerance for nonsense.”
Primary; Kakoba Bishop Stuart Demonstration O’level; Bweranyangi Girls’ School A’level; Gayaza High School. Graduated at Makerere University with a Bachelors of Laws and was called to the bar soon after.
Constance served in the Uganda judiciary diligently for 37 years
12 June 1976: Joined the judiciary as a magistrate Grade 1 and deployed at Mengo and Nakawa courts
31 August 1982: Promoted to senior Magistrate Grade 1 deployed at the High Court in Kampala
14 June 1986: Promoted to chief Magistrate and was deployed at Buganda Road court.
28 July 1988: Promoted to judge of the High court in Kampala
3 June 2002: Promoted to Justice of the court of Appeal
29 Jan 2003: Given an assignment as acting Justice of the Supreme Court to hear constitutional appeals numbers 1 and 2 of 2002
14 March 2008: Assigned to be Acting Justice of the Supreme Court to hear Constitutional Appeal Number 2 of 2006.
2 Nov 2011: Acting deputy Chief Justice till her death on March 21, 2013