Justice Benjamin Odoki has lauded the appointment of Justice Bart Katureebe as chief justice. Speaking at the official handover of office at the High court yesterday, the former chief justice said:
“I want to salute the president for making this choice because this is a person [Katureebe] I have known for over 40 years. First, he [Katureebe] was my student at Law Development Centre and I have subsequently worked with him in the judiciary for many years. I would like to sincerely congratulate him.”
Odoki went on to assure his successor that he would give him maximum support.
“To me this is a historical occasion. I’m handing office over to my former student. I think his lordship [Katureebe] has learnt his lessons well,” a jovial Odoki said.
The former chief justice said the transfer of power in the judiciary has been peaceful.
“In the history of the judiciary, there has been a situation where the transfer of power was protracted but I’m happy that there is an orderly transfer of power now,” he said.
“I don’t think there has been a fight,” he added, drawing laughter.
On March 5, 2015, following a two-year period during which President Museveni attempted to reappoint retiring Odoki only to be resisted in court, Katureebe was named to the position. He had been the preferred candidate of not only the Judicial Service Commission but also the legal fraternity, and indeed the public.
As lawyers battled Odoki’s reappointment in court, Justice Steven Kavuma was controversially called upon to serve as both acting deputy chief justice and acting chief justice until his appointment was confirmed alongside Katureebe’s. In his speech, the new broom Katureebe rejected claims by a prominent lawyer, that Uganda’s judiciary is dead.
“I read in the media [on Monday] and a lawyer wrote that the judiciary is dead but I must say Uganda’s judiciary is vibrant and alive. The judiciary faces problems like any other arm of government but we shall face the problems and try to find solutions. We are not going to bury ourselves in self-pity,” Katureebe said.
“This is the judiciary and it’s our home and we are going to work hard to see that we gain respect from the public and other branches of government,” he said.
He added that his leadership will keep an open mind.
“I’m not coming with preconceived ideas. I’m coming with an open mind on how to end corruption and other malpractices in the judiciary. I will be holding consultative meetings, starting with the meeting I’m going to have with High court judges tomorrow [Friday]. Mine will be about teamwork,” Katureebe said.
He disclosed that the Supreme court, of which he is part, holds meetings every Tuesday, even when there is nothing serious to discuss. Katureebe promised to work with the executive and parliament to improve the welfare of the judiciary.
“When I went for approval in parliament, I gave them a notice that I will be back there soon. The executive blames the judiciary for the case backlog but when you ask for 80 High court judges, they give you 49. If you want us to perform, give us judges if not, then the backlog will continue,” he said.
In his speech, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Kahinda Otafiire, promised more security for state prosecutors following the murder of Joan Kagezi, the acting deputy director of public prosecutions, recently.
“We are looking into giving security to prosecutors who are handling high – profile cases but I want to ask the public that they shouldn’t kill our prosecutors they are just doing their job. And they should not attack judges.”
Otafiire noted that when judges rule in people’s favour, they are praised only to turn against them and accuse them of corruption when rulings don’t go their way.
“They [people] should just appeal instead of abusing judges,” he said.
Source : The Observer