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You’ll wither if you don’t read

By Joan Akello

Justice James Munange Ogoola, chairperson Judicial Service Commission, talked to Joan Akello about justice and the beauty of poetry

What does Ogoola mean?

It’s a Luo name though the carrier is a Musamia because there was a time the Luo and Samia got so close and most Samia names sound Louish.  Ogoola or Agoola means that I was born on the veranda in Lusamia. We started life on the verandah but we are probably not on the veranda now.

Any things we don’t know about you?

I’m a man of contradictions and conflicts; the real person hardly comes up because no man is an island. I went to school much earlier than my generation where people with me in primary were married, never been critically sick and, 90 percent of my little free time is invested in finding everything possible to build a church.

What is favourite Bible verse?

2 Timothy 4:7: I fought the good fight, run the race; I have kept the faith…I have not won the crown.

When did you start being poetic?

This poetic muse started when I started working as a judge. When the Black Mambas invaded the High court, it was a silver lining for me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness is an event and probably the juices in your body make you laugh and become excited but those juices go back to sleep and you become moody. Joy surpasses happiness and it’s in the heart;the constitution of the person irrespective of the circumstances.The world is full of events, alarm bells and I think faith is the bedrock to that kind of joy.

Your most joyous moments?

In 1990, when I was working as chief lawyer for African Development Bank in Ivory Coast where I came face to face with my faith Damascus and I felt a joy beyond understanding; it has remained by the grace of God. Also in 1974 when the pursuit for my wife, Florence, was over and we got married yet we met in 1968.

What is your greatest fear?

Failure; I want perfection on anything I embark on.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Being intolerant of those who I perceive are not walking as fast as I am.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Pride, thinking that they know it all; everybody knows something that somebody else doesn’t know.

What is your greatest extravagance?


What is your current state of mind?

In a good state of mind, looking forward to retirement.

What about politics?

The one next year might leave me; may be the next one in 2021.

What about the age limit?

It does not matter, I will be wise and can’t we do something about that? Is it beyond the ingenuity of Uganda to something about that?

Why have you not been active in politics?

I was president of Uganda Students Association in my district and secretary in the university association. During the independence fervor; when I was in Higher School we would come to Parliament and see people debate and go back to school and debate. I was also chairman of the Debating Society in Buddo and minister of Finance. So I knew I would somehow have to dabble in politics. Then when I started work in 1969 heading to 1970, all that was dashed when the field marshal run the country not on a political basis but on a military basis. From that time on I have never thought of running for elective office except that you have told me that there is another election in 2021. I might think about that.

What is the quality you most like in a man and woman?

Be him/herself, someone who takes their time out to be considerate and mindful of others, put people at ease.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To love, please, care for people and that is not small talent; it means sacrifice, self-effacing.

What is your greatest achievement?

Is if I’m right at all, able to garner trust from other people, have confidence on what I say and do; if anybody out there thinks James Ogoola has some integrity, I will be very much at peace.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

The day when those who have trust in you feel that you have betrayed their trust and you are left hanging all by yourself.

Who are your favorite writers?

We are what we read and if you don’t read then you wither and just phase out and you are left with nothing. I am reading epic books like Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Jerusalem; it is a singular place with its own special pedestal in history and he has written covering all these periods to the present.

Who are your heroes in real life?

The vulnerable who stands out in spite of impossible times; like the little widow who educates her children out of penury, or an ordinary person standing up to a domineering ruler for their rights, there is one particular man who has been in the courts for the last 30 years over a small piece of land.

What is your greatest regret?

When I took the decision to go into expatriation and then founded a family that grew up there and never really got to relate to my country. I have always felt that somehow I shortchanged Uganda by getting these citizens from Uganda but they are citizens of the world. If they contribute to humanity, it matters so little that they do so here; but the likelihood of them being here is getting less and less.

How would you like to die?

This is a prison and the minute death comes, it opens the gate to more glorious living.

What is your philosophy about justice?

It’s probably one of the greatest inventions that man made and God ordained. A true judge should not bend to unjust laws; laws are manmade.

What is your motto?

Life is good, hang in there.

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