By Stephen Kafeero
Mike Chibita a former High Court judge is the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He spoke to Stephen Kafeero about his life and new role.
From a judge to a prosecutor, how will you manage the change?
By God’s grace, I will manage. There will be zero tolerance for corruption. I believe most State Attorneys are not corrupt. The corrupt will either reform or become part of the prosecuted.
The case backlog in the country is blamed on investigations for which the DPP takes partial blame. Are we likely to see a change to this?
Anything that needs to change and is in my power to change will have to change. Prosecution is just one part in the chain of administration of justice. We shall engage all stakeholders, including the press to ensure that the process of delivery of justice is expedited.
What plans do you have for this directorate?
We plan to transform it into an autonomous entity that will contribute towards the promotion of respect for the rule of law.
So what crucial areas are you likely to focus on?
We intend to focus on staff integrity, work ethic, information technology and victims’ rights.
There are increasingly new genres of crime in Uganda such as cyber crime, how will the DPP handle these going forward?
We are going to position staff in the directorate to be prepared to handle any crime whenever and wherever it arises.
There is a belief that the directorate does not attract the very best in the legal business because of a number of factors poor pay being one of them, how are you as the head of the directorate going to handle this?
We are going to work on the integrity and work ethic of the staff and improve the conviction rate. Government will have no alternative but to improve the terms and conditions of the staff. We then will inevitably attract and retain the best.
The DPP has often been blamed for taking on the ‘small fish’ and leaving the big ones when it comes to high profile cases especially on corruption. What should Ugandans expect during your tenure as DPP?
Expect prosecution of accused persons without fear, favour, ill will or affection.
In your career, what mistake has taught you the most?
Each mistake can constitute a crisis. I believe that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. All my mistakes have taught me great lessons.
In your opinion, what’s the most important skill for a leader to have?
It depends on what entity the leader is in charge of, in my kind of work, team work and decisiveness.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Proposing to my wife.
And what’s your alternative career fantasy?
What is that one thing that young people can learn from you?
To be contented with a simple lifestyle within one’s means.
What are you obsessed with at the moment?
Transforming the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and helping in reducing the level of lawlessness and impunity in the country.
What book(s) have you read and wish you had written?
I have read many books. I have written one and I am in the process of writing another. I would love to have written Glanville Williams’ Learning the Law.
And how do you want to be remembered?
I am still around.
Judge turned prosecutor
In Mike Chibita criminals certainly find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Many famously remember him as the man who oversaw the well-publicised re-trial of and conviction of businessman, Godfrey Kato Kajubi for his part in the murder of 12-year-old boy, Joseph Kasirye. Born on April 30, 1963 to Clement and Edisa Duallo of Buwesa village in Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda, Chibita had his roots in a humble beginning, which partly gave him a strong foundation to care about the interests of the oppressed.
Add on his staunch Christian values and you have a man who will strike terror in the heart of the most hardened oppressor. A lawyer by profession, Chibita attended Buwesa Primary School in Butaleja District before joining King’s College Budo for his secondary education and later Makerere University where he did his law degree. Later, he joined the Law Development Centre for his post-graduate diploma in legal practice in 1989 before pursuing a Masters degree in Law from the University of Iowa in the US.
In 1993, he began his work as a lecturer of International Relations and African History in the North Western College, St Paul Minnesota in the US. On his return to Uganda a year later, he was recruited as a State attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers, where he was also attached to the Constituent Assembly to handle election petitions.
Between 1995 and 1996, he worked as personal/ legal assistant to the Attorney General and at the same time, attached to the Department of Litigation where he was actively involved in civil litigation. Those who followed events remember him as the man who led a team from Attorney General’s Chambers that successfully defended the constitutionality of the death penalty in Susan Kigula & others vs Attorney General before the Constitutional Court between 2003 to 2005.
Chibita has not been far away from the corridors of power having worked as President Museveni’s Private Secretary in-charge of Legal Affairs for seven years. During this period, he handled all legal matters at State House and was the link with the Attorney General’s Chambers, Parliament and the courts.
He also worked at Uganda Revenue Authority in different capacities as executive assistant/ assistant commissioner in the Commissioner General’s office rising through the ranks to the position of Acting Commissioner in Tax Investigations Department.
Chibita has also served as president of Advocates Africa, president Scripture Union, president of Uganda Christian Lawyers’ Fellowship and as a board member of Strommer Microfinance. Prior to his appointment as DPP, he was the Deputy Head of the Land Division from July 2013 to date. He loves football, rugby, tennis, swimming, writing and reading and is happily married to Monica Chibita, who heads the Department of Mass Communication at Uganda Christian University (UCU).
They live with their five children. Indeed, Chibita’s 50 years of life present an interesting story, which he has documented in his autobiography, “Loved by the Best: The Journey of One African Judge.” He will now have to add another chapter, probably titled; from ‘judge to prosecutor.’