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Museveni lawyer reacts on Kasango case ruling

DPP controversies

But away from the legal duels, the implications of the Constitutional Court ruling were already being felt in some government departments.

Jane Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecutions, had already been forced to unexpectedly relinquish office.

Abodo’s quick response was possibly an attempt to ensure that the office of the DPP, which has had its fair share of controversies in the past, does not become the focus of the current one.

President Yoweri Museveni has had a preference for appointing people from the judiciary as DPP.

As a result, the DPP office has faced accusations of being used by the president to settle scores with political opponents. Chief of these accusations is the treason charge that presidential candidates; Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and Kizza have faced.

In 2018, Kyagulanyi and 30 others were charged with treason after a chaotic by-election in Arua Municipality where he had gone to campaign for an opposition MP. The case has virtually collapsed after several adjournments mostly on a lack of evidence on what was a politically motivated charge.

1n 2016, then DPP Chibita charged Besigye with treason after a mock swearing-in a day before Museveni was sworn in. It was essentially a holding charge for four years and Chibita left office without the opposition leader ever being committed to the High Court for trial. Critics said it was a continuation of the path of the office from the earlier days when Besgiye was first charged with treason and rape in 2005.

When the High Court acquitted Besigye of the rape charge in 2006, the presiding judge John Bosco Katutsi was scathing in his criticism of the DPP and government in general. Katutsi said the attempts to frame Besigye were “crude and amateurish”. The judge recused himself from hearing the treason case which could possibly have seen him targeted by the state.

The other charge levelled at the DPP by opposition critics is the haphazard withdrawal of charges after they are already financially and mentally invested in cases.

Abodo’s predecessor was Justice Mike Chibita, who was a High Court judge when he was appointed in 2013. He now sits on the Supreme Court. Chibita replaced Justice Richard Buteera who had served since 1995. At the time he was appointed DPP, Buteera was working as chief registrar in the courts of judicature.

Abodo had been a High Court judge since 2018 before her appointment as DPP in April 2020. However she had served as Senior Assistant DPP for years. At the time Chibita was leaving the office early last year, sources at the DPP’s office say it was unlikely Museveni would appoint someone directly from the office.

Abodo’s decision to step aside, whatever its motivation, seems to have triggered a rushed bid to find her replacement.  Alice Komuhangi Khauka appeared to have won the spot although media was awash with reports of how there were more senior deputy DPPs ahead of Khauka who Abodo reportedly delegated to while she was away on official duty.

The organogram of the ODPP lists the four deputies and their directorates in that order of hierarchy. Khauka was one of the deputies.

But some reports said Charles Elem Ogwal, deputy DPP in charge of prosecutions and quality assurance should have taken over as the most senior deputy having joined the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in 1985 as a Pupil State Attorney. At the time, the ODPP was part of the ministry.

In 1995, Ogwal went a notch higher when he joined the ODPP, a separate directorate from the ministry then, as a Principal State Attorney. This is why those who back Ogwal feel the elevation of Khauka may cause administrative hiccups.

The other deputy is Vincent Wagona, in charge of management support services. The website of the ODPP says he is a long serving attorney of 25 years meaning he is second in terms of seniority of service. There are four deputy DPPs; the third one is in charge of international affairs and the fourth is tasked with inspection, and quality assurance.

When The Independent spoke to Khauka about these issues, she referred to a media statement by the office regarding questions of disharmony. Ogwal meanwhile kept his views to himself when asked if he should have been appointed based on his seniority.

“That is a question for Public Service. I have no opinion on it,” he said. That seems to have been a smart response since Abodo is back in office although the case against her and other judges occupying executive branch offices rages on in the Supreme Court.


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