By Joan Akello
Uganda Media Centre (UMC) has today published a letter dated Mar. 2 in which the President forwarded names of nominees for the positions of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice to Parliament for approval.
“In Exercise of the powers conferred on the President by Article 142 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, I hereby, on the advice from and interactions with the Judicial Service Commission, nominate His Lordship Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe as the Chief Justice of Uganda and His Lordship Stephen Kavuma as the Deputy Chief Justice,” President Museveni’s letter reads.
UMC’s boss Ofwono Opondo says that the Speaker, to whom the letter is addressed and who chairs the Parliamentary Appointments Committee, is expected to convene the members to vet these presidential nominees soon.
Sections of the legal and political fraternity have mixed reactions about this announcement. But many are not impressed that the Judiciary has been without a substantive CJ and Deputy CJ since June and March 2013 with Justice Benjamin Odoki’ s retirement and the death of his acting deputy Constance Kategaya Byamugisha respectively.
Bugangaizi County West – Kibaale District legislator Dr. Kasirivu Atwooki, who sits on the appointments committee says the nominees will most likely be vetted next week after all the Constitutional court ruled that the appointment of the CJ is done expeditiously.
He is referring to Gerald Karuhanga’s Constitutional Petition No. 39 of 2013 against the Attorney General the reappointment of retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki as CJ. Four out of the panel of five judges ruled against the reappointment exactly five months ago
The judges of the Constitutional Court except Justice Opio Aweri said, on August 5, 2014, that it was unconstitutional for the President to reappoint Odoki for a two year term because the latter had clocked 70, the mandatory retirement age.
Karuhanga, the Western Uganda youth representative who filed the petition says the long awaited appointment has taken place but after the President has shown that despite being defeated in court, “he still has the power and authority to appoint at his own pace and timing.”
Also, the drama that saw the Judiciary Service Commission, Parliament and the executive locked in the saga which Karuhanga says has not only wasted time but only worsened case backlog, has also left many Ugandans frustrated in the process of seeking justice.
Odoki who has been at the centre of the drama has told The Independent that though he has not heard about the announcement. “The appointment was expected… everything has its time whether it is an appointment or reshuffle.”
“It was supposed to be after two years and that is what I was told so it is the right time because my time has expired,” Odoki added.
Karuhanga says he hopes that Justice Katureebe keeps his integrity as there is “a practice of people being compromised by either the president or the government and he is expected to maintain high moral standards more so with the 2016 elections a few months from now and we expect a lot of cases of malpractice.”
Katureebe who will clock 65 this June has worked in all the three arms of government as Member of Parliament, minister, Attorney General and has been serving as the most senior Judge at the Supreme Court. In an Interview with The Independent in October last year he said that though this means he is responsible for day to day management of the court, he does not have real administrative power. “That is for the chief justice.”