After a full year and eight months of operating with no substantive head and limping to the opening of another judicial year under the questionable and unsatisfactory ransom headship of the unfavoured and largely if you may say unaccepted by the legal fraternity Justice Steven Kavuma, finally we witnessed the appointment of Justice Bart Katureebe that caused too much euphoria in the country.
Bart Katureebe’s appointment was long awaited but hampered by the placement of Justice Kavuma in acting capacity to the dissatisfaction of the legal fraternity.
Finally, the waiting climaxed in the appointment of the most revered man in the Justice system
President Yoweri Museveni made this appointment after being left with no option but to give the job to the man that was most suited for it.
He will be deputised by Justice Steven Kavuma who has been holding both offices in acting capacity with immense strife.
The emphasise on how serious fellow judicial officers thought he was well suited for the job wanted him for the job lies in the fact that the Judicial Service Commission a body charged with vetting and seconding names of judicial officers for appointment reached the extent of recommending only Bart Katureebe’s name to the president for appointment to the Chief Justice’s position.
The Push and Pull.
The Chairperson of the Commission and former Principal Judge, Justice James Ogoola ardently defended their position in Parliament and was even willing to testify in court to give credence to the efforts by various parties that were willing to consolidate the gains and sanctity of the judiciary.
President Museveni’s holding out on making this appointment galvanised the legal fraternity into a force that pushed and shoved to the point the appointment was made.
A section of constitutional lawyers had to embark on legal process to have Katureebe appointed as Chief Justice.
Hon. Gerald Karuhanga the Western Youth MP is one man probably hated by retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki who stunned all and sundry by keeping silent on such a contentious issue most probably because he was a beneficiary of contract extension when it was an illegal venture at the expense of very qualified candidates like Bart Katureebe. Karuhanga alone could have been taken for a young boy bringing silly jokes on the table of elders as they enjoy their evening fireplace chats had he not sought the services of an elder which he found in the respected nonsense Prof. George Wilson Kanyeihamba. Karuhanga filed his petition in the
Constitutional court seeking an interpretation on whether Odoki’s reappointment did not contravene articles 130, 133, 142 (1) (2) (3), 143 (1), 144 (1) (a) (2) of the constitution which prohibit the re-appointment of a retired Chief Justice and preserve judicial
independence by mandating the President to just appoint names forwarded to him by the Judicial Service Commission and not for him suggesting to it people to appoint as he had done in Odoki’s case who had served and retired on June 23, 2013.
The Petition also sought to disqualify the appointment of Kavuma as an acting Chief Justice Kavuma’s appointment was made hastily the following day June 24.
The petition was filed around July 26, 2013 about a month after Odoki had retired on June 23, 2013 and on November 11, 2013 the parties appeared before a panel of a single Judge of this Court Justice Georffrey Kiryabwire for scheduling.
This was supposed to sort out agreed issues from those to be determined by court and it was at this scheduling that Prof. Kanyeihamba informed court that Justice Ogoola was willing to lay bare insider correspondences with the president on this issue by testifying in court during the hearing.
On November 18, 2013 Justice Kiryabwire rejected Kanyeihamba’s request to have Ogoola testify.
Kanyeihamba had particularly wanted Ogoola to personally inform court that he or his commission never recommended Odoki’s re-appointment and despite declining to swear an affidavit to that effect, he (Ogoola) was ready to testify in court. This spectacle was later saved when State Attorney Wanyama Kodoli from the Attorney
General’s office presented an Affidavit from the Secretary to the JSC Kagole Kivumbi affirming that they never recommended Odoki.
Parliament in their duty to play an oversight role was also not left behind. Before Karuhanga’s petition could be heard, efforts were made to have Odoki rammed on to the post of CJ through parliament.
Odoki’s name was forwarded to Parliament for approval; however the Speaker Hon. Rebecca Kadaga decided to be objective as she has characteristically been for most of her tenure in office as Speaker and declined to have Odoki vetted for the job.
She opted to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court. Had she decided otherwise, Katureebe would still be waiting for Odoki’s two years to elapse and probably another extension of the contract considering that he has had to wait for almost the same amount of time with a vacant post to behold only.
Kavuma’s Conflict of Interest.
On January 9, 2014 when the case came up for hearing, it was yet another serious show of wits. Before the parties to the case could appear in court, Prof. Kanyeihamba penned a dossier to then Acting Deputy Chief Justice Kavuma that selects the Constitutional Court Panel to disqualify himself from the panel that was to hear this petition.
His presence on the bench would be a case of conflict of interest since the matters in the case would also affect him (Kavuma) directly.
Kanyeihamba also protested the presence of Justice Augustine Nshimye on grounds that he and Kavuma are known NRM party cadre who always make decisions in favor of government.
He first asked to meet them in the chambers and address his concerns to them. The two never relented. When they stuck to their guns, Kanyeihamba repeated the same demands in open court.
Still Justice Kavuma to have his eat and have his cake too, overruled Kanyeihamba insisting that he took a judicial oath to dispense justice without bias.
This forced Karuhanga to storm out of the hearing. Kanyeihamba later informed Court that Karuhanga had withdrawn instructions from him until he files an appeal in the Supreme Court.
Justice Kavuma after being left with no choice, he had to refer the matter despite having not allowed them to appeal.
Insider information indicates that the Supreme Court chose the panel to determine this case. It consisted of Justices; Prof. Lillian Ekirikubinza Tibatemwa, Remmy Kasule who chaired the panel, Eldad Mwangusya, Solome Bosa and Ruby Opio Aweri.
On August 4, 2014 the first four agreed that the appointment was irregular and quashed it with Aweri the only one in disagreement in as much as his opinion would have little effectnsince the majority had agreed.
Legal Brains Trust Adds More Pressure
Even with a decision being made by the Supreme Court in August 2014, the President stuck to his guns as speculation that he was bent on emasculating the judiciary started being voiced out on different fora.
The legal fraternity was not going to let this state of living with a vacuum in the judiciary go unabated.
The lawyers under the Legal Brains Trust (LBT) NGO headed by Isaac Kimaze Semakadde filed a petition in the High Court seeking court to order that Kavuma should not be allowed to preside over any official functions of the judiciary, he should be forced to refund all allowances and salaries of the CJ office and above all the petition sought an order to compel President Museveni to appoint the new CJ.
In a bold statement to Kavuma and the President by extension, the lawyers decided to boycott celebrations to mark the New Law Year which was presided over by Kavuma.
Part of the affidavit sworn by LGT legal counsel Ms. Catherine Nabasirye says, “His Excellency the President of Uganda does not have a reasonable excuse or lawful justification for the delay, failure or refusal to appoint Justice Katureebe as the CJ or any of the other persons whose names were forwarded as alternative choices by the JSC after a lengthy search and selection process conducted using public funds.”
Sources who preferred not to be named informed us that this petition put the judiciary in a very complicated position.
This forced them to further engage the president about how his continued failure to appoint the Chief Justice was continuing to cause more confusion in the dispensation of justice.
It is said that judges particularly feared that if they ever issued an order compelling the President to appoint the CJ, then that would mean he has failed to perform his duties which is one of the grounds for the removal of the president and opposition could base on this to demand his impeachment.
This case was pending judgment before Justice Elizabeth Musoke of the High Court Civil Division.
The issue of appointing a CJ was so contentious that it seriously strained the relationship between the Uganda Law Society (ULS) and the recently dropped Attorney General Peter Nyombi.
The law Society chaired by Ms. Ruth Sebatindira reached the extent of resolving to issue Nyombi with a certificate of incompetence after he advised that a retired CJ can be re-appointed since the constitution provides for the appointment of a retired judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The Constitutional court was later to fault Nyombi’s reasoning stating it clearly that the CJ office, that of his Deputy and the Principal Judge’s are excluded among those which can be occupied by retired judges because holders of these offices perform administrative functions on top of their judicial work.
Museveni Vs Katureebe Sticky Past
Theirs is probably the biggest fight which always never came up in the public eye. Katureebe is a former Attorney General in Museveni’s government said to have been bold enough to confront Museveni with a resignation letter after a disagreement about a certain legal opinion the former had penned.
Sources privy to this contentious resignation believe that had the President to have his way on this appointment of a CJ, it never would have gone to a fellow that unceremoniously resigned a position he had appointed him to before.
A simmering grudge maybe. It is said that the President cajole him to stay by alluding to how the news of the resignation of an Attorney General would be perceived by the public.
Sources say it is this kind of brevity that Katureebe exudes that caused the President to be reticent in appointing him to the highest office in the judiciary.
It should also be taken note of that Presidential election petitions are only filed in the Supreme Court and its decision is final.
It is rumoured that security was also not of Katureebe’s political colours assumed or projected, because he has remained neutral without any political inclination.
It is said he is neither pro-NRM nor Opposition and that this posturing of his is reflected in his judgments.
These appointments are however subjected to Parliamentary approval and Katureebe might be stampeded by the NRM numbers Sebagala style and then the judicial celebrations will come to nought.
*Hon. Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe*
*Chief Justice Nominee – March 5, 2015*
He was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court, Uganda’s highest appellate court in August 2005. He brings to Judiciary’s top seat a long-standing career in the legal profession and in government – including service as state attorney, private legal practitioner, government minister and Attorney General – spreading over 40 years.
Born in Bunyarugru, in the western Uganda district of Bushenyi on 20 June 1950, Justice Katureebe went through the Makerere University (1971-74) and the Law Development Centre in Kampala (1974-75) for his legal education, among others.
He started his professional career as a State Attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers in 1975, rising to the rank of Principal State Attorney.
In 1983, he left the Ministry of Justice for private legal practice.
Justice Katureebe later served as Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs in charge of Regional Cooperation (1988-91); Deputy Minister of Industry and Technology (1991-92); Minister of State for Health (1992-96); and Minister of Justice and Attorney General (1996-2001).
He represented the people of Bunyaruguru County, Bushenyi in the same constituency in the Constituent Assembly that debated and passed the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda – also serving as a member of the Legal and Drafting Committee (1993-95). He was also elected representative of Bunyaruguru as legislator in the 6th Parliament (1996-2001).
Justice Katureebe went back to private legal practice between 2001 and 2005, becoming one of the founding partners of a renowned Kampala
Associated Advocates, and was at the time named in Chambers Global, 2004 as one of Uganda’s leading lawyers. He also served on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank Ltd (director) and New Vision Printing & Publishing Company Ltd (chairman).
He has since 2007 also served as Judiciary’s representative on the Judicial Service Commission, as well as Chairman of the Management Committee of the Law Development Centre.
*Hon. Justice Steven B.K. Kavuma*
*Deputy Chief Justice **Nominee** – March 5, 2015*
He was appointed Justice of the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court on 29 October 2004.
He has since March 2013 served as acting Deputy Chief Justice, following the demise of then Acting Deputy Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Constance Byamugisha, and subsequently as acting Chief Justice, following the retirement of the former Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Benjamin Odoki, mid-2013.
Hon. Justice Kavuma was born on 29 September 1948, and attended Kamanya (now Bunamwaya) Primary School in Wakiso District (1960); Mengo Junior School; Mengo Senior Secondary School; Nyakasura School (1969). He then joined Makerere University, Kampala from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with Honors in 1974, and attained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal
Practice from the Law Development Center in 1975. He is also a holder of a certificate in Project Planning and Management (1997), a certificate Computer Applications (2002), and is currently pursuing a masters’ degree in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies from Makerere University.
His professional career began in 1975 as a State Attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers (Solicitor General’s Department), from where he was seconded to head the Legal Department of the National Insurance Corporation, rising into the position of Corporation Secretary.
In 1981, Justice Kavuma left Government service and went into Private Practice under the firm name of Kavuma & Company Advocates, which firm later became Kavuma, Katureebe & Company Advocates.
He served in the Resistance Councils of Mpigi District (1986-88), was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance in charge of Custodian Board (1988).
He was represented Kyadondo Country both in the National Resistance Council (then Interim Parliament) and the National Executive Committee of the Movement.
Justice Kavuma served as a Deputy Director (Legal) at the NRM secretariat, before getting elected to represent for Kyadondo South in the Constituent Assembly in 1994. He was further served as chairman of the Rules Committee which developed the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
He was appointed Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, was in 1996 elected to the 6th Parliament as Member of Parliament for Kyadondo County South Constituency, and was appointed Minister of State for Defence in 1998.
Justice Kavuma has attended a number of important conferences and missions, including: the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement negotiations for the DR Congo; the Joint Uganda/Rwanda Committee on DRC; the Joint Uganda/Sudan Committee; the Darker Inaugural Seminar the African Centre for Strategic Studies, 1999 on the subjects of Civil Military relations and collective security; and was member of the Uganda delegation, the political committee/UN Security Council session on DRC in New York USA, 2000.
He is a member of the University Council, Makerere University Council, and is the current Chairman of the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) Uganda Chapter.
Justice Kavuma is a sportsman who enjoys playing loan tennis, table tennis and badminton.