Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World

Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World
Red Roses for You, My Sweet Friends ... Total Love.

My Sweet Friends

My sweet friends,

We grow closer to each other;

When we interact together and share ideas;

The common faith that we share,

Binds our hearts in one accord.

For sweet friendships last a life time,

When built on mutual respect, humility and understanding;

Throughout each different season,

We find we are one in life.

Sweet friends are there through times of grief;

And times when hope is gone;

Always there with encouragement;

So we can carry on.

I thank the Lord for you,

My true and faithful friends;

To fondly speak with you, whether we agree or not,

On this, our beloved blog;

For sweet friends will stay, no matter what;

Giving support.

Together, our hearts and minds truly unite;

With the amazing love of sweet friends.

In the spirit of true friendship,

Best wishes, my sweet friends;

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

I remain, yours truly,

B.B. Bakampa.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who Should Be Uganda’s Next Deputy Chief Justice, Principal Judge?

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
bsaint3@gmail.com


Two of Uganda’s most senior judicial officers are scheduled to retire from the judicial service this year. On 2nd September, 2010, the Deputy Chief Justice Hon. Lady Justice Leticia Mukasa-Kigonyogo, will retire after clocking seventy years which is the retirement age for judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal as determined by article 144 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

The Principal Judge, Hon. Lord Justice James Ogoola, will retire on 15th August, 2010, after attaining sixty five years, the retirement age for High Court Judges as determined by article 144 (1) (b) of the Constitution. The two retire after a long illustrious career in Uganda’s judicial service.

According to S.2 (a) of The Judicature Act, the Deputy Chief Justice takes precedence immediately after the Chief Justice, thus making him/her the second most senior member of the Judiciary. The same section provides that the Principal Judge shall take precedence immediately after the Deputy Chief Justice hence making him/her the third most senior officer in the judiciary. Mr. Elias O. Kisawuzi, the Public Relations Officer of the Judiciary, says that the two will retire this year alongside five other judges.

Their functions and duties
The Deputy Chief Justice is a member of the Court of Appeal of Uganda together with at least seven other justices of Appeal. In addition to performing the normal duties of judges such as presiding over cases and delivering judgments, his/her administrative functions are enshrined in article 136 of the Constitution as, deputizing for the Chief Justice as and when the need arises, heading the Court of Appeal and in that capacity administering it on behalf of the Chief Justice, and performing any other functions as may be delegated or assigned by the Chief Justice.

The Court of Appeal is established under A.134 of the Constitution and S.9 of the Judicature Act, with mandate to hear and determine appeals from decisions of the High Court although some Acts empower it to preside over appeals from other judicial tribunals as well. A.137 of the Constitution establishes the Constitutional Court with jurisdiction to interpret constitutional provisions. Subsection 1 of this article provides that interpreting the constitution is the mandate of the Court of Appeal sitting as the constitutional court. It follows, therefore, that the Deputy Chief Justice also heads the constitutional court by virtue of heading the Court of Appeal.

Article 138 of the Constitution and section 13 of The Judicature Act establish The High Court of Uganda consisting of the Principal Judge and at least twenty five judges of the High Court as may be prescribed by Parliament. Administratively, the Principal Judge’s duties are stipulated by A.141 of the Constitution. He/she heads the High Court and other subordinate courts and in that capacity assists the Chief Justice in their day to day administration. “Subordinate courts” mean all courts below the High Court including Magistrates Courts and the army General Court Martial, upon which the Principal Judge exercises supervisory jurisdiction. He also performs any other functions as may be delegated or assigned to him by the Chief Justice.

Required qualifications
The qualifications required of both Principal Judge and Deputy Chief Justice are the same as stated under A.143 of the Constitution. One should have served as a justice of the Supreme Court or as a justice of Appeal or as a judge of the High Court or a court of similar jurisdiction or has practised as an advocate for a period of at least fifteen years before a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. This makes it possible for suitable candidates to be appointed to any of these offices without necessarily having been a judge before although in practice members of the bench are more favoured than those from the bar. Previous appointments were of people serving as judges.

According to Mr. Roscoe Sozi, a partner in Kimuli & Sozi Advocates, this is vital and necessary because it is important to have people who are familiar with the judges they will head. “If an ordinary lawyer is directly appointed to such a position, there is a likelihood that other judges may look at him as a ‘foreigner’ and tend to isolate him or her,” he says. Counsel further argues that it is beneficial to have a person with exposure to and experience in day-to-day judicial practise.

Mode of appointment
The procedure of appointment is provided for under A.142 of the Constitution. Under clause (1), it empowers the President to appoint all judicial officers, acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and with the approval of Parliament. Therefore, the Judicial Service Commission nominates people for the President to choose from and when he does, his appointees must appear before Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee for vetting and subsequent approval or otherwise. Hence, the independence of the Judicial Service Commission is of paramount importance in this process.

Public opinion
Several people that I talked to had different expectations of the in-coming candidates. Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana, the Executive Director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, said that he expects them to be people of high caliber, able to exhibit independence in judgment. “We should see people with a proven track record of dispensing justice without fear or favour, especially at the Court of Appeal level,” said the prominent human rights activist.

Integrity seems to be everybody’s concern as all interviewees said that this is the bedrock of an independent judiciary, in which the Deputy Chief Justice and Principal Judge play a key role. Everyone concurred that as key players in the administration of justice, their character should be beyond reasonable suspicion. “Believe me you wouldn’t want to appear before a judge or magistrate whose honesty is doubted. It is a huge disappointment,” said one advocate who also lectures at the Law Development Center but who preferred anonymity, considering this to be a highly sensitive matter especially for the legal profession.

For Mr. Roscoe Sozi, the integrity of the Deputy Chief Justice and Principal Judge must be complemented by hard work and firmness. He argued that they must be in position to protect judges from undue criticism by their fellow judges in their respective courts, stating that this is important for judicial comity. And further that they should check the influence of State House, Resident District Commissioners and lawyers’ complaints.

On the question of whether, the President can be expected to make right choices for these posts, majority of those talked to held negative opinions. Mr. Sewanyana was of the view that the appointment process is largely political. “The President will be influenced by political considerations such that he can’t be expected to appoint fair people,” he said, adding that, “He has been literally at war with the judiciary by bashing and condemning judges and taking long to effect appointments to vacant positions.”

In the past, retired Supreme Court judge, Justice George William Kanyeihamba criticized President Museveni for delaying to appoint judges saying that this was meant to undermine the judiciary by portraying it as incompetent before the public. At one time, the Supreme Court was unable to preside over constitutional appeal cases due to lack of coram for about two years, resulting in public discontent against the judiciary’s work ethics.

Convinced that politics is “everything” in this country, Mr. Roscoe believes that the President “will make a bad choice” since he will naturally want to appoint people who are sympathetic to him and his ruling NRM party.

Mr. Elias Kisawuzi said that, “As long as there is a multiparty system of government, appointments may subscribe to any of those political parties.” He added that, “It’s almost impossible or difficult to appoint neutral people because they may not even be there.”

But he said this cannot be fatal because these irregularities “can be remedied by the appointment machinery and bureaucracy.” Mr. Kisawuzi emphasized that the key question is whether the candidates are fit for the job or not as a person cannot be nominated, appointed, vetted and approved unless they are duly qualified and competent for the job.

The issue of politics influencing the appointment process is relevant because judicial officers are by law supposed to be independent and impartial in exercise of their duties. This is provided for under article 128 of the Constitution, which states under clause (1) that, “In the exercise of judicial power, the courts shall be independent and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.”

On many occasions, the integrity, impartiality and independence of judges has been questioned. Members of the general public allege that the judiciary is nothing but a stooge of the Executive, stuffed with cadre judges. The Chief Justice himself, His Lordship Hon. Benjamin Odoki, has been criticized for being sympathetic to the regime. For example when the Black Mambas invaded the High Court in 2007 to block the release on bail of the People’s Redemption Army suspects, the Deputy Chief Justice, called a meeting of all Judges and Chief Magistrates where it was resolved that all court business across the country be suspended for three days. While several human rights activists lauded this move, they doubted whether the Chief Justice (who was then out of the country) would have been “man-enough” to do the same owing to his perceived loyalty to the government.

While appearing on Voice of America’s, Straight Talk Africa programme, Kampala Central Member of Parliament, Hon. Erias Lukwago, a renown constitutional lawyer currently serving as Shadow Attorney General, said that it is common knowledge there are “cadre judges” in the judiciary, although he couldn’t mention particularly any when asked to do so by the moderator, Mr. Shaka Ssali.

Court of Appeal judge, Justice Steven Kavuma has on many occasions come under attack from litigants, especially those of the opposition political parties, who accuse him of being a cadre judge. Justice Kavuma was an MP and Minister of State for Defence before being appointed a judge.

The gender question: Male vs Female
Most of those interviewed preferred a male candidate for Principal Judge and a female for Deputy Chief Justice for various interesting reasons. Some considered that High Court judges being ‘stubborn’ and ‘big headed’ people, it is necessary to have a man as their boss so that he can be able to manage them.

Others considered it a mater “of course” to have a female serving as Deputy Chief Justice since the Chief Justice is male.

Mr. Sozi however, cautions against making this the rule and norm saying that female judges are as hard working as their male counterparts. He even credited them for being more transparent and accountable.

For now, only time can tell what choices the appointing authority will make. Nevertheless, the nation is patiently waiting to see them. Mr. Kisawuzi appeals to the President to, “expedite the process of replacement” to avoid a leadership vacuum in the judiciary.