Courts won’t entertain delays in jailed MPs trial, says Dollo

Prime Minister  Robinah Nabbanja (right) greets Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Norbert Mao. Centre is the Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera and  Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo at the High Court in Kampala last Friday. Photo | Isaac Kasamani

What you need to know:

  • The lawmakers, who have been on remand for over a year, are accused of being behind the wave of murders by machete-wielding gangs in Masaka sub-region about two years ago.

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has warned the State and defence lawyers not to employ any delaying tactics when the trial of two Opposition MPs; Mr Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and  Mr Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) starts this quarter.

The lawmakers, who have been on remand for over a year, are accused of being behind the wave of murders by machete-wielding gangs in Masaka sub-region about two years ago.

“I want to announce that in this quarter, the trial of the Members of Parliament will begin. Let me again be clear,  let me say this to the State, you are the one who brought these accused persons to court, you made allegations against them and the law says they are innocent until proven guilty. When the trial begins and it will be soon, there will be no dilly-dallying, there will be no games,” Chief Justice Dollo said during the opening of the new law year 2023 in Kampala on Friday.

He added: “The State has got the capacity to bring all its witnesses. I will ask the trial judge, I don’t know who it will be, not to entertain any nonsense. These are MPs, they are public figures. If the State is not ready to have them tried, Honourable Prime minister (Robbinah Nabbanja), one of the rights the trial judge has is to dismiss the case. We will not accept any games or excuses and they will be tried under my watch.”

The Chief Justice also promised to travel to Masaka Court where one of the case files is, to announce the same and ensure that the MPs are tried to determine their innocence or  guilt,

Justice Dollo also used the event to caution all those that want to use the Judiciary to deny anyone justice that they will not succeed.

He  notified the representative of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) at the event to take note that the trial of the lawmakers will start soon.

“We do not want anybody to make the Judiciary of Uganda an accomplice in denying any person justice. The DPP representative, who is here, should stand warned that the trial will start soon,” he said.

Masaka High Court had set next week to commence hearing of the bail application of the two legislators.

This is after several of their earlier attempts to be released on bail were frustrated including being rearrested while they left prison.

The prosecution claims that the MPs, another suspect Mr Wilson Ssenyonga and others still at large, during the night of August 2, 2021 at Kisekka B Village in Lwengo District with malice aforethought, unlawfully killed Joseph Bwanika.

In the Kampala case file, the lawmakers alongside others, are accused of terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, murder, and attempted murder.

The duo denied all the charges in both files.

Both the two case files have been undergoing the pre-hearing stage which is still incomplete.

During the event, President Museveni in his speech read by Prime Minister Nabbanja, cautioned  judges on corruption .

“We increased the Judiciary budget from Shs199 billion in the Financial Year 2019/2020 to Shs381.9 billion in the Financial Year 2022/2023. As a result, your salaries were enhanced so that you are able to do your work with one heart and in order to resist temptations of corruption,” Mr Museveni said.

 The President also challenged the judicial officers on upgrading their skills for cyber-crimes and terrorism that need sophisticated investigations and adjudication methods.