Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has less than a year to retire from the helm of the Judiciary after a five-year service when he turns 70.
Article 143 (1) of the Constitution states that a person shall be qualified for appointment as Chief Justice if he/she has served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda or of a court having similar jurisdiction or has practised as an advocate for not less than 20 years before a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters.
The eligible candidate should also have at least 20 years of judicial experience.
It is from a spectrum of such legal brains that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will recommend names to the President to choose Justice Katureebe’s successor with MPs’ approval.
Although at the time of writing this article, the JSC had not yet officially called for applications from eligible personalities for the CJ slot, Daily Monitor looks at a number of likely candidates for Justice Katureebe’s successor.
Justice Esther Kisaakye
She is the most senior judge after Chief Justice Bart Katureebe at the Supreme Court having been appointed to the highest court in November 23, 2009. The practice has been that the most senior justice at the Supreme Court is appointed the next Chief Justice. It is the same practice that was applied to appoint the current CJ as he was the most senior judge after the controversial retirement and eventual exit of then Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki. But it’s not the rule.
Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Kisaakye had served as vice chairperson of the Association of Uganda Women Lawyers which ran a legal aid clinic.
In 1993, she was selected by the Leadership & Advocacy for Women in Africa Programme to do a Master’s on Women’s Rights at Georgetown University Law Centre.
The East African Journal on Peace & Human Rights published her thesis, “Changing the Terms of the Debate to Resolve the Polygamy Question in Africa.” She is among Africa’s most notable scholars and was a lecturer at Makerere University.
She was a co-founder of the Strategic Litigation Coalition.
Dr Kisaakye served as president of the National Association of Women Judges in Uganda. In April 2013, she was appointed chairperson of the East African Judicial Committee.
She is aged 59.
Justice Stella Arach-Amoko
She was one of the candidates in the slot of Deputy Chief Justice but the President appointed Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.
Justice Arach was recently among the four majority justices of the Supreme Court who upheld the removal of the presidential age limit from the Constitution.
She is a career judge who has since risen through the judicial ranks from the High Court to Supreme Court after her maiden appointment in 1997 to the High Court Bench.
In her career as a judge, Justice Arach has handled many election petitions.
Prior to joining the Bench, Justice Arach served in the Attorney General’s Chambers from 1979 to 1997 and rose from state attorney to commissioner for Civil Litigation. She joined the Bench in 1997 as a High Court judge before being promoted to Court of Appeal in 2010.
Five years ago, she was among the nominees the Judicial Service Commission had recommended for appointment as Chief Justice. She has also served as a judge of East African Court of Justice. She is aged 65.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru
Justice Kakuru is a justice of the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court.
He is known or perceived in the wider Ugandan public as a judge of high judicial conscience. Among the five justices of the Constitutional Court, he is the only judge who dissented and quashed the removal of presidential age limit clause from the Constitution last year.
He joined the Judiciary on August 26, 2013. Prior to that, he owned a law firm, Kakuru & Company Advocates. He had been in private legal practice for many years.
He is aged 61.
Justice Fredrick Egonda Ntende
He is currently a justice of the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court.
He served as Chief Justice of Seychelles from 2009 to 2014.
Justice Egonda joined the Judiciary on September 10, 1991. He is aged 63.
Justice Richard Buteera
He is one of the seven justices of the Supreme Court from whom the President could pick the next Chief Justice.
He was appointed to the Supreme Court in July 2013.
He was Chief Registrar of Courts of Judicature and was later promoted to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) where he served for many years. He joined the Judiciary as a magistrate on March 2, 1982.
He is aged 64.
Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo
He is the number two in the Judiciary hierarchy who might want to reach the peak of the Judiciary by succeeding his current boss.
He is one of those few justices who have served in all the three arms of state, having been minister, MP and now judge.
So he has a wealth of experience in executive, legislative and judicature matters.
In April last year, he led a panel of five justices in the Constitutional Court to hear the high profile petition on presidential age limit.
He was among the four justices who upheld the constitutional amendment to scrap the presidential age limit clauses in the Constitution.
He was appointed Deputy Chief Justice two years ago, replacing Justice Steven Kavuma who retired upon clocking the retirement age of 70.
In 1988, he served as legal counsel in the peace talks between the then rebel group, Uganda People’s Democratic Movement (UPDM), and the government of Uganda.
In that capacity, Justice Owiny-Dollo also wrote the peace agreement executed between the government and UPDM on June 3, 1988 at Pece Stadium in Gulu.
From 1994 until 1996, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly that made the 1995 Uganda Constitution.
He also served as a Member of Parliament representing Agago County in the Sixth Parliament (1996–2001).
During the talks between the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels and the National Resistance Movement from 2006 to 2008, Owiny-Dollo served as legal counsel to Reik Machar, the vice president of South Sudan, who mediated the talks.
On January 5, 2008 he was appointed judge of the High Court and served until 2015 when he was elevated to Court of Appeal.
While still a judge of the High Court, he handled the case of 2010 Kampala twin bombing terror suspects.
He convicted some and acquitted others.
He is aged 63.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire
Justice Bamugemereire is currently a justice of the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court.
In the recent past, she has caught the eye of the President who has made her the head of two consecutive commissions of inquiry.
She is currently heading the commission of inquiry into land matters in the country. She was appointed to the High Court Bench on November 22, 2010. She is aged 50.
Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine
The Principal Judge will retire in December but he will be eligible to compete for Chief Justice slot if he is interested.
Justice Bamwine was one of the candidates who showed interest in the Chief Justice slot five years ago before the President picked Justice Katureebe.
As Principal Judge, he will leave behind a legacy of having introduced and popularised the Plea Bargain mechanism, an innovation in Uganda’s judicial system where suspects voluntarily plead guilty in exchange for lighter sentences or lesser charges for not wasting court’s time.
Justice Bamwine joined the Judiciary as magistrate on November 30, 1983.
He is aged 64 but turns 65 in December when he officially retires as principal judge.
Outside the mainstream judiciary, there are some other candidates that the Judicial Service Commission could consider for Chief Justice position and recommend to the President for Chief Justice. They include a host of former presidents of Uganda Law Society with a wealth of legal experience such as James Sebugenyi, Oscar John Kihika, Andrew Kasirye, John Mary Mugisha and Diana Musoke.
What others say
Abdu Katuntu, former shadow attorney general and Bugweri County MP: “The Chief Justice’s constitutional role is to be the head of the Judiciary, meaning he is the administrative head of that arm of government, as a person, he/she should have the qualifications as spelt out in the Constitution. Besides, he has to be a person of high integrity to make sure all other judicial officers learn from their boss that they should administer justice without fear or favour.
He should abide by the judicial oath and once he abides by the same oath, integrity is what is paramount in this job.”
Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, president of Uganda Law Society: “The Chief Justice should be a person of tested integrity. He/she should be a person who understands the law very well and if he/she does not, the Judiciary would not be on firm ground. The Chief Justice should also be a person who can easily rein in his subordinate judicial officers.”
Ms Pheona Wall Nabasa, vice president of Uganda Law Society: “I think this is a good opportunity for women to get the first female chief justice. The pending appointment of the next chief justice comes at a time when women are suffering. It also comes at the time women have demonstrated to be good leaders and stewards.
We have also not heard of many women judicial officers being involved in corruption scandals. I think this is the time to make one of them the head the Judiciary.”