It has become very difficult to understand Uganda’s legal fraternity these days - from defending appointment of a serving UPDF General as minister in a partisan government and reappointment of a former Chief Justice forced out of office on account of having reached the constitutionally mandatory retirement age of 70 years, to now unprecedentedly appealing a legitimate personal decision of Justice Yasin Nyanzi not to disqualify himself from hearing Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago’s petition for a judicial review of his censure by KCCA council.
In the middle of all this is Uganda’s Attorney General, learned Hon Peter Nyombi.
Being a non-lawyer, I do not know how the Attorney General (AG), who merely asked Justice Nyanzi to consider disqualifying himself from hearing the Lukwago case, thinks that the judge breached any law or legal procedure in making the self-assessment and declining his request after formally evaluating the reasons.
Equally, I do not know under what provisions of the law the AG expects the Court of Appeal, some of whose justices also declined to disqualify themselves after similar petitions, to entertain such an appeal, rule against a High Court judge’s personal assessment of his impartially- an assessment to which he is fully entitled- and to disqualify the judge who is duly qualified in law to hear Lukwago’s case from doing so.
Attorney General Nyombi must be told that his pursuit of small things and odd positions in law badly undermine his office and his credibility, and that of the government, in the eyes of well-meaning Ugandans. And, no doubt, he will be accused on this appeal of vanity and playing petty politics unbecoming of a holder of such a nationally important office.
If the AG thinks the appeal will help him delay the Lukwago case, I do not know if he has deeply considered the law and honestly evaluated and prepared himself for the ruling that the Court of Appeal could deliver even at the preliminary objection stage in his appeal.
At any rate, if the AG is so confident of the legal procedure the KCCA council followed and the evidences adduced at Lord Mayor Lukwago’s censure, why does he not wait to appeal Justice Nyanzi’s anticipated biased ruling rather than drag himself, and the high office of the AG, into this really base process and disrepute?
Ugandans must know that the strength of our judicial system rests not just in the competences, conduct and fair-play of magistrates, judges and court registrars, of the case investigating arms of the State and of the DPP and the prosecution arm, but equally of the AG and his staff as the legal advisory body to the State.
Let Attorney General Peter Nyombi bear this in mind as he pursues some of these matters.
Prof Latigo is the former Leader of Opposition.firstname.lastname@example.org