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Justice Ogoola’s mind

By Joan Akello

Justice James Ogoola has a knack for waxing poetic at the smallest opportunity. The Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission and former principal judge got a grand opportunity when he was asked to speak on the Rule of Law in Uganda on the Rule of Law Day, on Oct.8, the eve of celebrations to mark 50 years of independence.

The controversial judge divided the country’s judicial life into five ages, namely; the age of reason, the age of tension, the age of chaos, anarchy, and tyranny; the calm before the storm; and the Twilight to the Jubilee Year.  Every president, he said, swears an oath to uphold, protect and defend the nation’s constitution as by law established but the reality of that “oath has been less than horrifying.”

Rule of guile and intrigue

The founding  non- executive President, Kabaka Sir Edward Mutesa II, declined  to assent  to certain  parliamentary enactments  affecting  the results of the , constitutionally  mandated post- independence referendum  on the  fate of Buyaga- Bugangaizi counties. This event, which straddled  the history, geography , politics and economics of Bunyoro and Buganda,  eventually led to the 1966 storming of the Kabaka’s  royal palace, his London exile  and the seizure of power by the then Executive Prime Minister, Milton Obote.

Ogoola says: “It is perhaps safe to say that this act, in combination with others closely associated with it, did set into motion the seismic political –cum-constitutional crisis that engulfed the young nation.”

Ogoola said Obote arrogated to himself the title of Executive President (with exaggerated executive powers) and effectively dissolved the then kingdoms and pseudo kingdoms.  He said the second president will forever be remembered for many things good and bad alike in equal measure.

“But perhaps significantly among them all , his name  will forever be engraved in the concrete  of history as the pigeon- hole- president- a constitutional engineering feat that was anathema  to and the very antithesis of the rule of law,” Ogoola said. He tagged Obote’s regime as the rule of guile and intrigue, less than the rule of law.

The rule of chaos and anarchy

Idi Amin Dada (RIP) never manifested even mere pretense for either constitutionalism, good governance or the rule of law. It was him who ‘callously butchered and dispatched’ the Chief Justice, Archbishop, Inspector General of Police, the Vice Chancellor of the then only university and his own minister of defence among the hundreds of thousands of others. In short, the presidency of 1971- 1979 knew not, cared not, and gave no damn at all about the rule of law. Ogoola tagged Amin’s regime as the rule of chaos and anarchy, less than the rule of law.

The rule of tension

Ogoola says the fourth, fifth and sixth presidents under the transitory regimes of Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, the Commission of Edward Rugumayo and Paulo Muwanga and General  Oyite Ojok  were all  ‘remarkable  more for the  raw,  clandestine , undignified and Machiavellian ousters of their respective incumbents , than for their  protection  or defence of the rule of law’.

He presented Binaisa as one who would not be allowed to appoint, deploy or reshuffle his own cabinet ministers. “When he dared to do so,… he faced the  rough end of  the boot of his  more superior  ‘juniors’. Hence not the rule of law but the rule of puppet strings, not the age of reason but the one of tension.

The rule of kifuba

The seventh presidency brought back the apparition of the second president – who largely pursued the same policies as before- only this time with vengeance :  Following  the controversial  general elections  of 1980, a rag tag army  of “ bandits” run to  the bush , only  to  return  to the capital   a mere five years  later wielding  the victorious  gun of war- with  which  they captured  power from  a duo  of largely  illiterate  army generals, who had themselves grabbed that same power a few months  before  from  the coup – prone  presidency of Dr. Milton  Obote. In all this, Justice Ogoola says, the lexicon of the day, the voculabulary of the age was military might, gun power and crude force. This, the ‘rule of Kifuba’, not the rule of law.

Rule of teargas

Justice Ogoola said the chronicles of  Uganda’s history  will record  many  momentous  things  done  or left undone  in the areas  of economics,  politics and peace. However, in the arena of the rule of law, he said the record will not fail to script the bitter spots on the large canvass of “Uganda’s nascent history”: the infamous double invasion of the High Court premises in December 2005 and 2007 by the elite agents of the army under their nome de guerre (battle name) of Black Mambas and ; the ugly  bloody scenes  of excessive  bare –knuckles force by the People’s Police  Service cleansing  the country’s streets, highways, and byways of opposition  pedestrians  who choose to walk  to work ; or even  worse who dare  to walk to  freedom.

He said currently,” there is the danger that when all the gas in the cloud has settled, history will record this as the rule of Tear Gas rather than the rule of law”

“For an administration  that has  bequeathed  to the country  a stellar  constitution : the best researched, the most  debated , and the most  liberal  and efficacious constitution  of all  our  former constitutions – the tear gas cloud  coming, as it has ( especially  on the very eve the jubilee celebrations  of our country’s  emancipation  and liberty), would be a most regrettable legacy”.

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