- Court events. Former Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Bobi Wine were some of the biggest fish dragged to court this year as President Museveni benefitted from removal of age limit clause from the Constitution.
The year ending this month saw the two big personalities charged with various offences which on conviction, attract up to a death penalty. Daily Monitor’s Anthony Wesaka & Betty Ndagire summarise some of these big stories that happened in court and legal circles in the last 12 months.
Gen Kayihura finally charged after two months in detention
When 2018 started, nobody could imagine that the all-powerful Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, would be in the dock before Christmas just like hundreds of others he had sent to face the jury while he headed the police.
He was arraigned before the General Court Martial and charged with aiding or abetting kidnap and repatriation of Rwandan exiles and refugees between 2012 and 2016 and failing to protect war material by issuing arms to unauthorised persons.
Gen Kayihura, up to his arrest, was believed to be very close to President Museveni. But his status changed suddenly, dramatically and drastically in March after he was sacked by President Museveni in shock reshuffle. Kayihura was replaced by his deputy Martins Okoth Ochola.
Three months later in June, Kayihura was arrested by the military from his upcountry home in Kashagama in Lyantonde District, transferred to Kampala in an army chopper and incarcerated at Makindye Military Barracks for close to two months without being taken to court.
Finally, he was taken to the military court and charged. He was later released on bail and the date for his trial has not yet been fixed. His civilian associate Abdallah Kitatta and other aides in police had been arrested and charged before him for being in possession of military equipment.
They are still on remand and their efforts to secure bail have not yielded any relief.
Bobi Wine and others accused of stoning Museveni car, charged with treason
Around the same period that Gen Kayihura was charged, MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and other opposition Members of Parliament were charged with treason on account that they stoned the President’s car and destroyed its rear windscreen during the Arua Municipality parliamentary by-elections to replace the ruling party diehard Ibrahim Abiriga who was gunned down as he approached his home in Kawanda in Wakiso District.
The violence that ensued during the campaigns that day resulted in the shooting of Bobi Wine’s driver.
President Museveni had been in Arua to canvass votes for the flag bearer of his ruling party, National Resistance Movement, who came second in the final ballot count.
Bobi Wine was later charged alone in the military court in Gulu with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunitions.
The military court later abandoned the case but the State transferred him to Gulu Magistrate’s Court for treason charges.
He was jointly charged with MPs Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality), Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality) Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality) and Kassiano Wadri (Arua Municipality). They were grouped with 28 other opposition supporters. They were so badly beaten by security forces that some of them had to be referred abroad for specialised treatment. To-date the State says it is still carrying out investigations into the treason case and for that reason the accused politicians have not been committed to the High Court for trial. They are out on bail and keep reporting to court every month.
Museveni wins age limit battle as MPs lose term extension
In April the Constitutional Court sitting in Mbale Town started hearing the petition challenging the amendment of the Constitution to remove the 75-age limit on the presidency.
Chief of Defence Forces Gen David Muhoozi, Secretary to Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, Sergeant at Arms, Mr Ahmed Kagoye, former Commandant of Kampala metropolitan Police, Mr Frank Mwesigwa, Clerk to Parliament, Ms Jane Kibirige and the head of civil service, Mr John Mitala testified in court to defend the amendment.
On judgement day, the justices on a 4:1 majority verdict, ruled that the MPs followed the law in amending the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit.
The decision gave Museveni a green light to stand for re-election until death. The trial panel comprised the Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and justices Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki and Justice Kenneth Kakuru. Justice Kakuru differed and declared that the amendment was unconstitutional and therefore a nullity.
However, the same panel unanimous struck down the extension of the current MPs’ term of office from five to seven years.
The justices reasoned that the extension was done without the participation of the electorate, a move the jury said was selfish and against principles of good governance.
The judges observed that it was unconstitutional for them to usurp their powers of the electorate and extend their stay in the House to seven years without consulting them.
The petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the Constitutional Court decision on removal of presidential age limit. The hearing has been fixed for a two-day marathon hearing in mid-January 2019.
14 judges appointed
2018 has also seen the appointment of a big number of judges to the High Court and Court of Appeal totalling to 14. The appointments took place in February after the judiciary’s long cry about understaffing.
The justices elevated/appointed to the Court of Appeal include; Christopher Madrama, Stephen Musota, Percy Tuhaise, and Ezekiel Muhanguzi who had retired as High Court judge upon clocking 65 years a few months before.
Those appointed to the High Court included; then Chief Registrar, Mr Paul Gadenya, Chief Magistrate Joyce Kavuma, deputy registrars; Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya, Alex Ajiji, Tadeo Asiimwe and Emmanuel Baguma.
Others are; advocate Musa Sekaana, Richard Wabwire, state prosecutor Ms Jane Frances Abodo, and Ms Cornelia Sabiiti, former executive director of Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA).
Jamil Mukulu pre-trial starts
The pre-trial of former Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel leader Jamil Mukulu started in the course of the year. The pre-trial session will be completed as the year concludes.
Justice Ayebazibwe dies
The country lost High Court judge Jessica Naiga Ayebazibwe in June, leaving a gap in the Judiciary.
The 53-year-old judge who was attached to the Family Division of the High Court at the time of her demise, was also scheduled to resume her judicial duties having recovered from an illness that had held her down for a while.
A few hours earlier on the fateful day, she had been in town shopping for her daughter who was to introduce her fiancé that weekend.
The judge returned home from the hectic shopping and happily displayed to her husband and family the items for the occasion.
Moments later, she complained she was feeling a bit tired and weak and asked for tea. She sipped the tea and proceeded to bed for some rest. Incidentally she rested forever.
The family members who went to check on her around 8pm, realised something amiss and rushed her to the clinic near her home in Ndeeba suburb where she was pronounced dead on arrival.
A section of judicial officers get heifers from OWC
In June some judicial officers benefited from the government programme of ‘Operation Wealth Creation’ (OWC). They received cows (heifers) and goats to supplement on their incomes.
The judges and magistrates received 50 heifers and 100 goats at Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court in Kampala. Last year, other judicial officers received mango and orange seedlings from OWC to boost their farming potential.
18 chief magistrates appointed
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointed 18 new Chief Magistrates and four assistant registrars during the year under review. The appointments took the total number of Chief Magistrates to 55 against the required 100.
The appointment of the assistant court registrars took the total to 13 against the required establishment of 32. Some of them include: Dr Douglas Singiza Karekona, the current secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into Land matters and Ms Elizabeth Akullo Ogwal.
The four appointed assistant court registrars are; Joy Kabagye Bahinguza, Dorothy Ssempala Lwanga, Simon Zirintusa Kintu and Jamson Karemani
Substantive Chief Registrar appointed
After months of an acting Chief Registrar, President Museveni finally appointed Ms Esta Nambayo the new substantive Chief Registrar of Courts of Judicature in August. Ms Nambayo, the then Deputy Registrar at Court of Appeal, replaced Mr Paul Gadenya, who had been appointed High Court judge in February.
The Chief Registrar is fourth most important management position in the Judiciary hierarchy after the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Principal Judge. The core function of the Chief Registrar is to implement policies and directions of the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Principal Judge.
Uganda Law Society gets new president
Mr Simon Peter Kinobe was overwhelmingly voted the new president of Uganda Law Society (ULS), replacing Mr Francis Gimara whose term had elapsed. Mr Kinobe beat his only rival Ms Alice Namuli after polling 760 votes against her 268.
Ms Phiona Wall Nabasa was voted vice president with 700 votes. Ms Nabasa beat her rival Mike Okuo who polled 324 votes. The ULS is an association of lawyers established by Uganda Law Society Act and is charged with ensuring high level of professionalism among lawyers in the country.
Ongwen starts defence
Dominic Ongwen, former commander of Sinia Brigade of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, started his defence before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity he allegedly committed during the two-decade insurgency that displaced millions of civilians, left thousands dead, abducted and or turned into sex slaves and child fighters. The northern region has not recovered from the ruins of the insurgency. Ongwen charges were confirmed in March 2016 after a pre-hearing. His defence hearing involved his lawyer playing for the ICC judges videos in which former spymaster, Gen David Sejusa and Col Dr Kizza Besigye (both retired), blamed government for the insurgency. Ongwen is still defending himself before The Hague-based court.
Student convicted for stalking female MP
The country was thrown into schmooze after a 25-year old student Brian Isiko pleaded guilty to sending love messages to Kabarore District Woman MP, Ms Sylvia Rwabwogo.
Isiko, a student at YMCA Jinja-Branch, was sentenced to two years in jail by Buganda Road Court for demeaning and disrespecting women. Isiko appealed through his lawyer, Mr Ramathan Waiswa and the High Court ordered a retrial. By end of year, Isiko will still be in court defending himself or waiting for judgement.