Bart Magunda Katureebe is in his first week as a former Chief Justice of Uganda. In the last week of his tenure as Chief Justice, he had to reiterate a point he had made several times before, that he did not intend to stick around after he clocked the retirement age of 70.
Katureebe was reacting to a story in Saturday Monitor last week that the retiring Chief Justice had been assigned two civil appeals in his final week in office.
The appeals were heard and he will still have to write his judgments, and dispose of all other pending cases that he has, before he fully settles into retirement. The law allows him another three months to do that.
Talk about the Chief Justice sticking around after clocking retirement age has a background.
Katureebe’s predecessor, Benjamin Odoki, only left office after the Constitutional Court ruled that extending his term after he had clocked retirement age would be unconstitutional.
When Katureebe took over after Odoki, he assured the country that he would retire when his time comes, and never did he encourage talk of raising the retirement age for judges and the Chief Justice even when he knew that he would only serve less than six years in that position.
As Chief Justice, Katureebe spoke out openly and passionately on the things he felt strongly about, especially increasing the number of judges, improving their welfare and fighting corruption within the Judiciary.
As a retirement present, President Museveni signed off a law that, among other things, will enable judges to keep their salaries even after retirement.
Perhaps that can be a safeguard against corruption and a guarantor of independence, for a judge need not worry about economic survival after retirement.
But Katureebe will perhaps regret his failure as Chief Justice to influence a change in the electoral system.
As judge of the Supreme Court, he was involved in two petitions against President Museveni’s re-election (2006 and 2016).
On both occasions, he upheld Museveni’s re-election, but has consistently said that it would not make sense to annul a presidential election when the prevailing legal framework almost guarantees another flawed poll.
In 2016, he led the Supreme Court to list electoral reform proposals that they required the government to carry out within one year, but as he takes leave of the bench, four years later, the proposals are gathering dust.
He will be remembered as a Chief Justice who in many ways was an insider to the ruling system but still advocated reform.