Judge sues CJ, five others over Bobi 2021 poll case spat

Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo  and Justice Esther Kisakye. PHOTOS | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The Secretary to the Judiciary, Mr Bigirimana, has been sued for allegedly refusing to release funds to Justice Kisaakye to travel to the United States of America for eye treatment.

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has been sued by a fellow Supreme Court Judge, Esther Kisaakye. 

The unprecedented legal action is majorly over the ugly spat that arose out of last year’s presidential election petition between Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and President Museveni.

The other respondents besides the head of the Judiciary include the Judiciary permanent secretary, Mr Pius Bigirimana, Chief Registrar Sarah Langa Siu, Commissioner for Human Resources Apophia Tumwine, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Attorney General. 

In her constitutional petition that she filed on Monday, Justice Kisaakye re-counts the ugly events that unfolded at the Supreme Court, that climaxed in her being allegedly prevented by the Chief Justice from delivering her dissenting judgment.

She recounts that from March 18, 2021, the Supreme Court was set to deliver the final detailed rulings in all applications arising out of the presidential election petition.

She adds that prior to going to court to deliver the rulings, the Chief Justice requested for copies of her ruling, which she didn’t share.

“Your petitioner informed the 1st respondent (Chief Justice) and other justices of the court that there was no constitutional or legal requirement imposed on her to share her reasons before delivery since court had already made all its decisions and issued the respective summary ruling in all the applications under reference,” the court records read in part.

She adds: “During the adjournment, the 1st respondent (Chief Justice) then directed your petitioner (Justice Kisaakye) not to deliver her ruling on grounds that your petitioner had not shared with the 1st respondent and other justices of the Supreme Court her detailed reasons for the respective rulings, which had been earlier reserved by the court.”

Justice Kisaakye adds that following the alleged unconstitutional directive and the refusal of all other justices to return to the court, she proceeded back to the courtroom to deliver her ruling.

She says as she returned to the courtroom, the police attached to the office of the Chief Justice, ran ahead of her and collected her files and confiscated them in the process.

“… During the adjournment, your petitioner’s files containing her consolidated reasoned rulings were confiscated by armed police officers on the directives of the 1st respondent (Chief Justice) and they were handed over to the 1st respondent,” the court documents read in part.

The documents add: “Subsequently, the lights and public address system in the court tent, which had served as the court room, were switched off and the courtroom was locked up on the orders of the 1st respondent (Chief Justice).” 

She also accuses the head of the Judiciary of refusing to grant her leave and that he has also refused to assign her work.

Further, Justice Kisaakye in her petition, claims that following the ugly events that unfolded at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice summarily dropped her as the administrator of the court and replaced her with a junior judge, which is unconstitutional.

“Constitutionally, the position of the administrator of the Supreme Court is a preserve of the most senior member of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice,” she says.

She also claims her research assistant, a Grade One Magistrate, has since been withdrawn from her and transferred to Jinja and yet the research assistants for her fellow justices have never been transferred. She says this has seen her do her own research and judicial work.

Why Bigirimana sued

The Secretary to the Judiciary, Mr Bigirimana, has been sued for allegedly refusing to release funds to Justice Kisaakye to travel to the United States of America for eye treatment.

He has also been accused of refusing to pay allowances to the driver and bodyguards of the judge in question.

“On October 1, 2020, February 15, 2021 and April 12, 2021 respectively, your petitioner requested for financial support to travel and subsistence to the United States of America to complete her eye surgery and treatment, which is not available in Uganda and for purchase of reading glasses but the 2nd respondent (Mr Bigirimana), declined to release or refund the money despite earlier Medical Board approval and commitment by the Judiciary,” Justice Kisaakye says.

“The other justices of the Supreme Court and other lower courts, who required treatment outside the country, have always been provided with resources by the Judiciary to undertake such treatment out where such treatment is not available,” she adds.

She also accuses Mr Bigirimana of deleting her from the Judiciary/government payroll for allegedly being ‘away without official leave’, and that she never received her July and August salaries to that effect, affecting her financially and socially. This, she says, has affected repayment of her loans.

“…Your petitioner was removed from the Judiciary/government payroll after being accused of not working for the period between September 2021 to June 2022 in total disregard of the due process, the Constitution and the nationwide and courts Covid-19 lockdown, the Judiciary policy on treatment of judicial officers,” the court documents read in part.

Why the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was sued

Justice Kisaakye contends that on March 20, a day after the Supreme Court spat, in the absence of a complaint from anyone, the JSC commenced investigations against her, disguised as a general inquiry without observing any due process and all set procedures under the Constitution.

She further accuses the judicial body of having gone on and solicited for a complaint from the Chief Justice to support its inquiry against her over the spat at the Supreme Court.

“Without informing her of the ongoing investigations, the 5th respondent (JSC) summoned your petitioner to record a statement before police officers at the JSC,” court documents state in part.

Prayers to court

Justice Kisaakye wants the Constitutional Court to declare that the acts of the Chief Justice locking out the litigants, media from accessing the Supreme Court on March 19, 2021 are unconstitutional.

She also wants court to declare that the acts of Mr Bigirimana refusing to release funds to her for medical treatment are inconsistent with the Constitution.

She also wants court to declare that it is unconstitutional for her to be dropped as the administrator of the Supreme Court and replaced by a judge who is less in seniority.

The judge further implores the court to declare that it is illegal for the Chief Justice to exclude her from duty roster and cause-lists thereby, denying her work and that the same amounts to victimisation.

She also wants the court to compel the Chief Justice to reopen the Supreme Court and resume hearing of cases. 

The court was closed in May following a fire outbreak in the chambers of the Chief Justice and since then, the building has been condemned as being unsafe for human habitation.

Who are the judges to hear petition against Chief Justice?

Following the filing of a constitutional petition against Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and a number of top management officials of the Judiciary by Justice Esther Kisaakye, we bring you mini profiles of the 15 justices of the Constitutional Court, from whom the Deputy Chief Justice, who doubles as the administrative head of the court, will pick a panel of five justices to hear this unprecedented petition.

This could be the very first court case where a Supreme Court judge sues the Chief Justice and almost the entire top Judiciary management and the JSC in the recent history.

The court has already summoned the Chief Justice and his co-defendants to file their defence within seven days from the date of receipt of the summons.

“Take notice that the petitioner (Justice Kisaakye) has filed a petition against you in this court. You (Chief Justice and co-defendants) are hereby required to file an answer within seven days after the petition has been served on you,” the court summons read in part.

The 15 justices from whom the deputy Chief Justice will pick a panel of five to hear this petition are Kenneth Kakuru, Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Fredrick Martin Stephen Egonda-Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki, Hellen Abulu Obura, Catherine K. Bamugemereire, Stephen Musota, Christopher Madrama Izama, Kibeedi Muzamiru Mutangula, Irene Mulyagonja, Monica Kalyegira Mugenyi, Christopher Gashirabake and Eva Luswata.

Richard Buteera 

He is the current Deputy Chief Justice, a position he assumed in 2020. Prior to this appointment, he was the Justice of the Supreme Court following his appointment in 2017, but he returned to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court after he was made Deputy Chief Justice. 

Prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court, he served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal. 

He also served as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for more than 10 years before being sent to the Bench.

Stephen Musota

He is currently a Justice of the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court and was appointed to the same court in 2018. Prior to being appointed to the Court of Appeal, he served at the High Court. 

He holds a diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre (1983). He has undertaken several tailor-made courses and trainings relevant to the execution and enhancement of performance as a judicial officer at all levels. He started out as a Magistrate Grade One in 1984, and was promoted to senior Principal Magistrate Grade One in 1992. He worked as chief magistrate, deputy registrar and registrar of the High Court. 

In 2000, he was appointed the chief registrar of the Judiciary on promotion, a position he held up to 2004 when he was appointed judge of the High Court. 

His major areas of interest in law and practice are Civil Law and Practice. He was appointed by the Chief Justice to be a member of the Taskforce on the Reforms of Criminal and Civil Laws in 2015. In 2016, he was named a member of the Case Backlog Reduction Committee and now a standing committee. In 2017, he was appointed a member of the Committee on Reform of Legislation on Civil Procedures in Uganda. 

Christopher Izama Madrama 

Prior to being appointed to the Court of Appeal Bench, Justice Madrama served at the High Court Bench. He holds a Bachelor’s of Laws Degree (LLB) from Makerere University (1989), Post graduate diploma from Law Development Centre (1990) and a Master of Women’s Law from  University of Zimbabwe. He also holds several other certificates under the continuing legal education programme for lawyers. 

His legal career started as a state attorney in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in 1990. He served in this position up to 1999 when he was promoted to Principal State Attorney. Later that year, he left and joined Law Development Centre as a Senior Legal Officer. 

Between 2001 and 2010, he was a Principal Legal Associate at Katende Ssempebwa and Co. Advocates. In 2010, he was appointed a judge of the High Court. Previously, he worked as a research assistant with the Commission of Inquiry into the Judiciary between 1994 and 1995. He has also authored several publications, including The Problem HIV/Aids: A Discourse on Laws, Marriage and the Subordinate Status of Women in Uganda.

Kenneth Kakuru

Justice Kakuru is a justice of the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court.

He is 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 to the removal of presidential age limit clause from the Constitution ahead of the 2021 presidential polls.

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.

Fredrick Egonda Ntende

Prior to being appointed to the Court of Appeal, he served as the Chief Justice of Seychelles from 2009 to 2014 when he was recalled.

Catherine Bamugemereire

Justice Bamugemereire is currently a justice of the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court.

She in the recent past caught the eye of the President, who has made her head of two consecutive commissions of inquiry of land and KCCA. She was appointed to the High Court Bench on November 22, 2010 and worked at Anti-Corruption Division, among other duty stations.

Hellen Obura

Obura served as judge of the High Court from October 2010 until September 2015, when she was appointed to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court, where she has served since then.

Muzamiru Kibeedi Mutangula

He was appointed as a justice of the Constitutional Court in 2019. Prior to his appointment, he was a lawyer in private practice for the last 26 years. He was a transitioning lawyer, having started out as a constitutional rights enforcement lawyer and transitioned  to property development and taxation planning for family business.

Justice Kibeedi, while still serving out as a private lawyer, also represented several government institutions in court including Makerere University, National Drug Authority, Kyambogo University and Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation.

He was at the centre of establishing the first association of property developers and he was opposed to the Tenant and Landlord Bill.

Irene Mulyagonja 

She was appointed to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court in 2019. Prior to her appointment, she was the Inspector General of Government (IGG) for two terms. She also served as a High Court Judge. 

Monica Kalyegira Mugenyi

She was appointed to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court in 2019. Prior to that, she had served at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, as Principal Judge. She also served as a High Court Judge. She is remembered for having convicted Lydia Draru, the woman who confessed to killing former army commander Gen James Kazini.

Eva Luswata

She was appointed to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court Bench last year. Prior to that, she was serving as a judge of the High Court.

Christopher Gashirabake

He was appointed to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court last year. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Solicitor at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

He started out his judicial career as an immigration officer in 1984. He later served as state attorney in the Justice ministry, where he grew in rank to Principal State Attorney and was promoted to deputy Solicitor General.

Geoffrey Kiryabwire 

Prior to being appointed to the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court Bench, Justice Kiryabwire served at the High Court, with his last duty station being the head of the Commercial Court.

He attended Nabumali High School from 1974 to 1978 for his O-Level education, then Kings College Budo for his A-Level studies from 1979 to 1980. In 1984, he graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor of Laws degree. Later in 1984, he graduated from the Law Development Centre with a Diploma in Legal Practice. 

He also holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of London. From 1991 until 1992, he served as a legal assistant to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Uganda. From 1992 to 1994, he served as a senior state attorney for civil litigation in the Office of the Solicitor General. From 1993 to 1999, he served as the company secretary and legal counsel at Pan World Insurance Company Limited (PWICO). Between 1999 and 2003, he was the acting general manager and chief executive officer at PWICO. He was appointed a judge in the Commercial Division of the High Court in 2003, a position he still occupies.

Elizabeth Musoke

She has been a justice of the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court since September 2015. Prior to that appointment, Justice Musoke served at the High Court. She is one of the five justices who heard the famous age limit petition in Mbale. She worked with the Justice ministry for several years and left at the rank of Principal State Attorney to join the Inspectorate of Government as director of Legal Affairs in 1999.

In July 2013, she was appointed to serve as a judge of the High Court of Uganda, assigned to the Civil Division serving in that capacity until October 2015, when she was elevated to the Court of Appeal, which doubles as the Constitutional Court of Uganda.

 Cheborion Barishaki

Justice Barishaki has served at the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court since September 2015. He was recently appointed to the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, where he will be part-timing.

Prior to joining the Judiciary, he worked at the Justice ministry, where he rose through the ranks until becoming the director of civil litigation. He was one of the five justices who presided over the age limit petition in Mbale ahead of last year’s presidential polls.

Additional reporting by Lydia Felly Akullu & Dorothy Nagitta


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