May 14, 2013

Parliament Starts Vetting Judges,as Muslims Cry Foul

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga is the Head of the Appointments Committee
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga is the Head of the Appointments Committee

The Appointments Committee of Parliament has kicked off the process of vetting 28 judges nominated to fill up positions at the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court.

Chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, the closed door process is vetting ten judges for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

They include Justices Amos Twinomujuni and Arach Amoko as judges for the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal nominees include Lady Justice Solomy Bbosa and Richard Buteera, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Others are Commercial Court Judge Geofrey Kiryabwire, Justice Apio Aweri, former Inspector General of Government Faith Mwondha, Justice Egonda Ntende, Justice Eldard Mwangusya and Prof Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, who is currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor at Makerere University.

At the time of filing this report, a source in the meeting told our Reporter that the committee had so far vetted only Justice Amoko Arach. However, Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala was first to appear before the committee demanding for an assurance that his petition to include Muslim names on the list got a response.

Early this month, Ssebagala petitioned Speaker Kadaga over what he described as discrimination against Muslims in the country. He expressed disappointment that the Judicial Service Commission and President Yoweri Museveni still believed that Muslims are backward. Ssebagala says in response to the petition Kadaga assured him on Tuesday morning that the President promised to send two names for the Muslim judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

When asked by the committee why he petitioned, Ssebagala explained that there are a number of Muslims who sat for the interviews but their names were allegedly deleted from the list that was later forwarded to Parliament for vetting. The MP is hopeful that the Muslim names shall be forwarded to Parliament before Thursday this week when the vetting process ends.

Tomorrow the committee shall vet nine other judges including Kenneth Kakuru, a Kampala advocate who was nominated judge of the Court of Appeal. The eight judges for the High court are Henry Peter Adonyo, Margaret Tibulya, Elizabeth Jane Alividza, Godfrey Namundi, Henrietta Wolayo, John Eudes Keitirima, David Batema and Kaweesa Isabirye.

On Thursday, apart from the two Muslim names yet to be forwarded by President Museveni, the High Court judges to be vetted are Elizabeth Kibula Kabanda, Damalie Nantudde Lwanga, Lydia Mugambe, Duncan Gaswaga, Vincent Okwanga, Alexandra Rugandya Nkonge, Dr Winfred Nabisinde, Eva Luswata Kawuma and Micheal Elubu.

The vetting exercise comes after numerous complaints especially by the Judicial Service Commission led by Justice James Ogoola lamenting about the lack of judges in the country that is crippling the judicial system. While appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee led by Kajara MP Steven Tashobya, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs was forced to assure the committee that President Museveni had approved the list of nominees before the ministry’s 2013/2014 budget was to be approved.

On April 27, Minister Kahinda Otafire returned to the committee with news that President Museveni had cleared the list of Judges to fill the vacant posts. However, this came with news that the Judiciary was experiencing a deficit of 1.8 billion shillings for salary enhancement for the judges and other workers in the sector. The situation was worsened when the Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka also appeared before the same committee and said the Judiciary did not have money to enhance their salaries.

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