Kampala. The two-year contract extension that President Museveni gave to immediate former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki and three other justices of the Supreme Court has expired.
According to reliable sources in the Judiciary, the two-year contract extension ended last Friday (July 31). The other acting justices of the Supreme Court, whose contracts ended include John Wilson Tsekooko, Galdino Okello and Christine Nakaseta Binayisa Kitumba.
However, the three acting justices will remain around for the next three months to complete any pending chamber work before they can finally leave the Judiciary in October.
President Museveni reappointed the justices from their retirement in August 2013, given the shortage of experienced judges to fill the vacant positions in the highest court in the land.
It was also during this same period that President Museveni expressed interest to have retired Chief Justice Odoki bounce back as Chief Justice. But the President’s move was met with a lot of resistance. Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga petitioned the Constitutional Court that agreed with him that indeed a retired Chief Justice cannot be reappointed.
Justice Tsekooko confirmed to Daily Monitor this development. “It is true our two-year extension has expired,” he said in a telephone interview, adding: “Personally, it was an opportune moment to contribute to the Judiciary’s performance again.”
Justice Odoki too confirmed the expiry of his term but declined to further comment on the matter, saying he will do so when he finally bows out in October.
The departure of the four leaves only four justices at the final court in the land, including current Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Jotham Tumwesigye, Stella Arach-Amoko and Dr Esther Kisaakye.
This means there will not be quorum to hear cases until such a time when the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), in conjunction with the President and Parliament, recruit new justices to replace them. It should also be noted that it is only the Supreme Court that has the powers to hear a presidential election petition. The country goes to polls in February 2016.
The secretary to the JSC, Mr Kagole Kivumbi, said the process of their replacement is ongoing and will be completed in the very near future.