What you need to know:
- Chief Justice (CJ) Alfonse Owiny-Dollo “unequivocally [and] unreservedly” apologised to the Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, over his remarks that the king was airlifted for treatment in Germany in a presidential jet.
Buganda Katikkiro (prime minister) Charles Peter Mayiga has commended Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo for “being courageous” after his courtesy visit to Bulange Mengo, in a gesture intended to mend fences following his remarks that the king was airlifted for treatment in Germany in a presidential jet.
The chief Justice arrived at Mengo at around 10am accompanied by former Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party president Olara Otunnu and other officials. He was welcomed by Mr Mayiga who was flanked by his first deputy Hajji Twaha Kawasee and other kingdom officials before they went for a closed door meeting that was attended by religious leaders, including the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stephen Kaziimba.
After the Thursday meeting, Mr Mayiga said the Chief Justice’s visit was a laudable expression of humility.
“I commend him for his humility he has exhibited. Him coming here is an expression of humility which we appreciated very much. I commend him for being courageous. For him to acknowledge something that didn’t go well with others requires a lot of coverage. In Buganda we say friendship follows a fight (Omukwano guva mu Ngabo). He came as a friend and he is going as a brother,” the Katikkiro said before urging all Ugandans to “leave what was said behind us.”
“The people of Buganda and those of Acholi have more in common than what divides. We should give Rt Hon Jacob Oulanyah a befitting sendoff next week well knowing that we have undertaken this process. There is nothing more that needs being done. We just need to move forward. Deepen our friendship and unity amongst all of Ugandans,” Mr Mayiga added.
After the closed door meeting, the Chief Justice hailed the Katikkiro for the opportunity to sit down with him and speak to one another on common grounds.
“We have met to put aside and behind us the things that could put us apart and move forward on the huge common goals and purpose which unite us together. I want to report that this meeting was very meaningful and successful. We came here in peace and we leave here knowing that we are more close together than we were hitherto and for this I would like to thank the leadership of the church who are represented here for playing their part,” CJ Owiny-Dollo said.
In comments at a vigil for Jacob Oulanyah, the deceased speaker of the 11th Parliament, Mr Owiny-Dollo, in rebuke of what he called “lumpens…wicked” Baganda elements who demonstrated over Oulanyah’s travel abroad for specialised care, said:
“But your ethnic leader, you, you, you who were demonstrating, your ethnic leader was transported in a presidential jet to Germany using public funds. He was not entitled. You did not demonstrate…only a wicked person can fight a person who is fighting for his life, only a super wicked person can fight the dead. For us, it is an abomination which has no name.”
The claims, which remained unsubstantiated, sparked a deluge of criticism against the head of Judiciary, with some commentators, among them Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament Betty Nambooze, asking him to resign.
The National Unity Platform (NUP) led by Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, whose supporters the CJ berated, accused him of personalising and “ethnicising” legitimate questions about bad governance and the country’s poor health infrastructure, resulting in senior state officials flying for treatment overseas and in some cases dying there.
In a March 25 rejoinder, the Katikkiro of Buganda, Mr Peter Charles Mayiga, without mentioning the CJ by name, cautioned “leaders at all levels” to avoid making “unfounded statements, which can cause unwarranted debates” and more grief to a deceased’s family.
The Katikkiro also clarified that the Kabaka took a commercial KLM Airlines flight from Entebbe to Germany during the August 2021 trip, not a presidential flight.
In response to our inquiries on Monday about the backlash and whether he would resign, Mr Owiny-Dollo said he was emotional and “I made a wrong and inappropriate reference to His Majesty, the Kabaka of Buganda”.
“I hereby unequivocally, unreservedly, and of my free volition, wholly retract that reference; and also hereby, tender my apology to His Majesty, the Kabaka. I will immediately hereafter communicate to the Katikkiro of Buganda in writing, registering this apology,” he noted.