Uganda Law Society has declared a boycott on the opening of the new law-year, an annual event that marks the start of the legal calendar.
ULS president Ruth Sebatindira says the move is a protest against “the dubious state in which the Judiciary is run.” She specifically made reference to the delayed appointment of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.
“As you are all aware, save for the High Court, we have not had substantive leadership for the Judiciary for about 2 years now. Over the last sixteen months or so, we kept our hope high that the issue would be resolved quickly. It has not been resolved,” Sebatindira observed.
The New Law Year is due to open on 16th January 2015 with a ceremony at the High Court grounds in Kampala. However, this would be the second year that the law-year would open without a substantive Chief Justice in place since the rejection of the reappointment of Benjamin Odoki to the post.
Justice Odoki, the former Chief Justice clocked the retirement age of 70 on 23 March 2013 before serving a three-month extension until 23 June, the same year. However, President Museveni had directed that Odoki be granted a two year contract in order to “maximize the services of our human resource.”
But this move met a lot of resistance from different players. Notable among them is the Uganda Law Society, The East Africa Law Society, legislators, and academicians. They all contend that the re-appointment is illegal and unconstitutional. The appointment was annulled by the constitutional court in August 2014.
“The issue we face is not merely one of getting occupants in those positions. It is fundamentally an issue of constitutional order,” Sebatindira says.
According to Sebatindira, the delayed appointment of the Chief Justice implies that the Judiciary in Uganda continues to be treated as an irrelevant institution, run under scandalous and unconstitutional circumstances despite it being the vanguard of the Constitution and other laws of the land.