Kampala. President Museveni has finally named Supreme Court Judge Bart Katureebe as the new Chief Justice. The judiciary has not had a substantive Chief Justice for two years, after the retirement of Justice Benjamin Odoki in 2013.
President Museveni also appointed Court of Appeal Justice Steven Kavuma as Deputy Chief Justice. Justice Kavuma had been acting in both positions of Chief Justice and deputy for the last two years.
Justice Odoki left office after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 while his former deputy Constance Byamugisha passed on.
As the announcement was made, Justice Katureee, 64, was attending a golden jubilee of Muntuyera High School, Kitunga in Ntugamo District.
He told the Daily Monitor that while he had not received official communication, he would serve diligently once confirmed.
“I will do my part to improve the justice system as I will be required to do. There are many challenges in the judiciary but as I say, there is nothing that cannot have challenges. We will work up to them and see if we can achieve,” Justice Katureebe stated.
He promised to execute his duties without fear or favour. “Impartiality is what is expected of us and as a justice I take an oath of impartiality. It’s not something that I should be demanded to do because it’s what I should do,” he said.
On his part Justice Stephen Kavuma has welcomed his designation as deputy Chief Justice.
“I am very grateful about my new position and it is an opportunity for me to serve the people of this country. I am so thankful to the Lord and also to the appointment committee for the confidence they have in me,” he said.
He said the past two years in the acting positions posed a great challenge to him. However Kavuma lauded the cooperation he received from other judicial members which enabled him to thrive.
The two appointees now await their approval by Parliament as the law demands before they can officially assume their duties. The news of the new substantive Chief Justice was confirmed by the deputy Presidential Press Secretary, Ms Linda Nabusayi, in a statement.
“President Yoweri Museveni has today (yesterday) appointed His Lordship Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe as the new Chief Justice ending a two-year vacuum at the helm of the Judiciary,” the State House statement circulated to media houses read in part. “The President has also appointed Justice Steven Kavuma as the Deputy Chief Justice,” the statement added.
The eventual appointment of Justice Katureebe came as a surprise move to many as President Museveni had earlier rejected his recommendation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The President had instead sought to re-appoint Justice Benjamin Odoki but got resistance from lawyers and Members of Parliament. The reappointment of Justice Odoki suffered further set back when it was blocked by the Constitutional Court.
In a July 9, 2013, letter to the JSC chairman, President Museveni hinted at Justice Katureebe’s abilities although he went ahead to reappoint Justice Odoki for the job.
The President wrote: “this is a good proposal because Justice Katureebe is, indeed, very able according to my layman’s assessment. As you know, he worked as our Attorney General for a number of years.”
The appointment of Justice Katureebe that had been pushed for by politicians, legal experts, lawmakers and academicians was welcomed by many, especially those in the legal fraternity as a “good choice”.
Outgoing Chief Justice Odoki described Mr Katureebe as a “sober” judge whose appointment was timely. Justice Odoki hinted that Mr Katureebe’s first assignment as CJ should be to unite the Judiciary that had begun grumbling.
At the recent 17th annual judges’ conference, Justice Odoki sent veiled signals that an appointment of his replacement was imminent when he told judges the conference could be his last with them as a judge.
His appointment as acting justice of the Supreme Court also ends in August.
Judges last year complained that a judiciary without a leader had made them to be like a flock without a shepherd.
City lawyer Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde who had sued the attorney general over the failure by President Museveni to pick a name from the list that was forwarded to him by the JSC said Katureebe’s appointment was a victory for the country.
The Judiciary through its public relations officer, Erias Kisawuzi said shortly after the announcement of Justice Katureebe that: “the appointment is welcome though long overdue.”
The president Law society, Ms Ruth Sebatindira, who had pushed for this appointment to the extent of rallying fellow lawyers to boycott the opening of the New Law Year termed Justice Katureebe’s legal track record as impeccable.
“Unquestionably, his personality, integrity, professional ability experience, standing and capacity will propel the judiciary to exponential levels.,” Ms Sebatindira said.
Huge task ahead
kampala. When he walks to the Temple of Justice in his new role as Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe will hit the ground running as a huge task awaits him. He will be charged with leading a judiciary which his colleagues, at a recent conference, said is infested with infighting and intrigue.
The Chief Justice is the fourth highest office in the land, after the President, Vice President and the Speaker of Parliament.
Since the retirement of Justice Benjamin Odoki, two years ago, the third arm of the state has had no shepherd. The vacuum, judges say, led to in-fighting and intrigue.
“The intrigue and infighting talk is a very serious trend that the judiciary is riding on...” lamented Justice Eldad Mwangusya of Court Appeal at the 17th annual Judges conference last week.
The Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine, commenting on the appointing of Justice Katurebe at a function in Ntungamo yesterday also pointed at this challenge.
“We in the justice system have had a lot of challenges without a team leader. We look forward to working together with the new leader and hope the challenges will be resolved,” Justice Bamwine said.
Pay rise for judicial officers is another huge task that lies ahead of the new leadership.
During a closed-door meeting at the just concluded judges’ conference, there was a resolution that a four-member team of judges be set up to lobby for pay rise.
The judges earn between Shs9 shillings to Shs11 million per month.
The source that attended the closed-door meeting quoted judges comparing themselves to university professors who are now earning a monthly salary of Shs15 million and yet they do more work but earn what they called peanuts.
Justice Katureebe also has to make sure that the judicial officers that he will lead meet the proposed work targets of each High Court judge concluding 230 cases every year. The other issue ahead of Katureebe is to lobby for increased budgetary allocation to the Judiciary.
Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe was born on June 20, 1950, to Yowana Magunda and Evirginia Engoni in Rugazi village, Bushenyi District now Rubirizi District.
He is a member of the Supreme Court with a career in the legal profession, spanning about 33 years.
The 64-year-old is married with six children. He becomes the first Chief Justice from western Uganda to assume this office since independence.
Justice Katureebe began his education at Rugazi Primary School from 1957 to 1962.
He then went to St Joseph Junior Secondary School, Mbarara for his Junior One and Junior Two.
He then joined Kitunga High School for his O-Level from 1965-1968. He went to Namilyango College for his A-Level where he completed in 1970. Thereafter, he joined Makerere University where he pursued a Bachelor of Laws and graduated in 1974.
A year later, he graduated from the Law Development Centre.
He joined the Justice ministry as a State attorney, later rising to the rank of principal State attorney.
In 1983, he left government service and joined private practice. Five years later, he was appointed deputy minister for Regional Corporation, a docket he held for a short while before being appointed deputy minister for Industry and Technology.
Between 1991 and 1992, he was again appointed to another docket as Health minister and at the same time, a member of the NRC.
Then between 1994 and 1995, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly representing Bunyaruguru County in then Bushenyi District.
In 1996, he became Justice minister-cum-Attorney General until 2001.
During his tenure as the Attorney General, he represented Uganda at the International Criminal Court of Justice at the Hague in a case where Uganda was accused of plundering the natural resources of DR Congo.
He rejoined private practice shortly after 2001 and worked with Kampala Associated Advocates, a law firm.
Then President Museveni appointed him Supreme Court judge in July 2005.
He is also currently a member of the Judicial Service Commission.