President Museveni has appointed four judges in a reshuffle that sees Lady Justice Elizabeth Mpagi Bahigeine elevated to the position of Deputy Chief Justice.
She replaces retiring Lady Justice Laeticia Mukasa Kikonyogo who leaves the bench after an illustrious career spanning some 39 years. Justice Bahigeine will replace Justice Kikonyogo as head of the Court of Appeal, also known as the Constitutional Court.
President Museveni also confirmed the appointment of Justice Yorokamu Bamwine as Principle Judge. Justice Bamwine had been acting in the position following last month’s retirement by Justice James Ogoola, who bowed out after reaching the constitutional retirement age of 65.
In the reshuffle, President Museveni elevates Justice Remmy Kasule from the High Court to the Court of Appeal and promotes Ms Flavia Senoga - who had been the Judiciary’s chief registrar, as Judge of the High Court.
President Museveni forwarded names of the new appointees for vetting to Parliament Speaker Edward Ssekandi on Wednesday.
However, Sunday Monitor understands that a scheduled sitting of the Appointments Committee on Friday failed to take off due to lack of quorum.
Mr Museveni wrote to Speaker Sekandi on November 29, although the letter was delivered on Wednesday, requesting him to “put before the relevant committee” names of the new appointees for vetting.
Mr Ssekandi said he was not a liberty to discuss the matter when contacted for comment. “It would be uncourteous to do so before the committee approves or disapproves any of those people,” he said in a telephone interview. “As of now they are not yet appointments; they are nominees.”
However, a member of the committee who begged anonymity because proceedings of the committee are held in camera said yesterday: “There was no quorum. The Speaker called me and said he was all alone and the appointees had come. Members are busy with elections that is why there was nobody.”
The MP said Mr Ssekandi rescheduled the meeting to Tuesday next week “I think they are fair appointments,” noted a veteran MP and advocate. “Justice Bamwine has served for some time and I have no issues against him. Justice Bahigeine is also an experienced personality. I have nothing to say about Justice Kasule. By the time he was appointed judge he was already a very senior lawyer.”
In vetting the new appointees, Parliament will consider their experience, work ethic and character. The sticky matter of political leaning and allegiance will also form part of the inspection. In the past Mr Museveni has been accused by the opposition of “appointing cadre judges”.
Climbing the ladder
Appointed to the bench in 1971 as a Grade 1 Magistrate, Justice Kikonyogo, who turned 70 on September 2, rose through the ranks breaking new ground for women on the bench. She was the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court following a 1997 appointment before becoming the first woman to be Deputy Chief Justice, a position she has held for 10years.
She replaced Justice Seth Manyindo. A few years ago, the judicial officers association, which brings together mostly the lower rank bench complained that the President was demoralising committed staff by always appointing politicians as judges, leaving long serving jurists.