Former Chief Justice Samuel William Wako Wambuzi has criticised Parliament’s approval of Justice Steven Kavuma as deputy chief justice.
Speaking at the launch of his book The odyssey of a judicial career in precarious times, which chronicles his life as a three-time chief justice of Uganda, Wambuzi said that Parliament abdicated its constitutional mandate when it rushed to approve Justice Kavuma at a time when pertinent questions were raised about his appointment.
“I wish to suggest that to decline to consider or to rush to confirm may not have been the best way of fulfilling parliament’s constitutional obligation, much as it may have been a convenient way to deal with simple or difficult questions raised by the proposed appointments,” Wambuzi said.
In March, in a decision criticised by The Observer’s editorial, Parliament’s Appointment’s committee approved Justice Kavuma as deputy chief justice without due consideration of objections from the public. There were claims that Kavuma’s appointment was not supported by the Service Judicial Commission as required by the law.
The committee, chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, also received a petition from one Eunice Nalumansi, who claimed that Kavuma had defrauded her and was therefore unfit to hold such a high judicial office. Nalumansi said in her petition addressed to Kadaga and copied to the leader of opposition, Wafula Oguttu that Justice Kavuma took her car in 2004 and refused to pay her for it.
Although Oguttu and his opposition colleagues wanted this accusation to form the basis for an investigation before Kavuma could be approved, Kadaga did not see merit in it. In respect of a notice of an intended constitutional petition from Gerald Karuhanga (Youth MP, West) indicating that he had tried and failed to file it in the constitutional court, Kadaga told the committee that she could not stay Kavuma’s vetting because she had not got such information from the JSC.
In hindsight, Wambuzi, who over his career, was involved in identifying judicial officers, said that when the country decided to modify this approach and include Parliament in the appointment process, it was to provide checks and balances in the exercise of authority by the different arms of government.
“And it must have been understood that whenever Parliament would be faced with such situations, Parliament or the relevant committee of Parliament would investigate the matter including hearing from all those involved and or affected (and not just the nominee) and then arrive at a decision based on independentlyverified information,” he said.
Karuhanga contends that other people, including Justice Arach Amoko and Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, had been considered as nominees for the post of deputy chief justice. Although Karuhanga’s endeavour has been overtaken by events, he thinks it will set a precedent on the matter.
“We want court to have the final pronouncement on this matter since Parliament decided not to inquire into it,” Karuhanga told The Observer.
Source : The Observer