Kampala- President Museveni has said he cannot name a new substantive Chief Justice until the pending constitutional case challenging the reappointment of retired Justice, Benjamin Odoki, to the same position is determined.
Mr Museveni revealed this while meeting the top leadership of the Uganda Law Society (ULS) at State House in Entebbe on Monday. The meeting followed the recent 60-day deadline ULS gave the President to appoint a substantive Chief Justice or they lay down their tools.
In the meeting, according to the president of ULS, Ms Ruth Sebatindira, President Museveni also promised to accept the outcome of the case in the Constitutional Court challenging his decision to reappoint Justice Odoki as the Chief Justice on a two-year contract.
“He advised that since there is a court case seeking to deal with the controversy generated when the Hon Justice Benjamin Odoki was proposed as Ag CJ, he would await the decision and abide by it,” Ms Sebatindira reported Mr Museveni as saying during their meeting.
She said Mr Museveni also agreed to their proposal to immediately appoint a substantive Deputy Chief Justice to ease the suspense in the judiciary’s top leadership. Justice Steven Kavuma of the Court of Appeal is acting as both the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice, an action that has also been challenged as unconstitutional.
While meeting the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Thursday, the Judicial Service Commission chairperson Justice James Ogoola said the Constitution does not provide for the position of ‘acting CJ’ and that the only immediate solution was for the President to appoint a substantive Deputy Chief Justice who can act as Chief Justice.
On July 9, 2013 President Museveni wrote to Justice Ogoola, directing him to give Justice Odoki a two-year contract in order to maximally utilise services of Uganda’s human resource.
However, Mr Odoki’s reappointment has been legally challenged on grounds that he has hit the retirement age and the Constitution does not provide for his reappointment.
Last year, Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga (pictured above) petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of Mr Odoki’s reappointment as CJ. The case is still pending at the Constitutional Court.