Supreme Court judge Esther Kitimbo Kisaakye and President Museveni. PHOTO/COMBO


Museveni rejects early retirement for Kisaakye

What you need to know:

  • The President reasons that Justice Kisaakye is still the subject of an ongoing inquiry. 

President Museveni has turned down a request by Supreme Court judge Esther Kitimbo Kisaakye to retire early.

The judge’s application to leave nearly seven years ahead of schedule had been lodged three months ago in mid-July. 
It was filed against the backdrop of a reportedly difficult time on the bench for her in recent years. Those tensions are suspected to have exploded in the current storm of controversy she finds herself in, involving Chief Justice Alfonse Chigamoi Owiny-Dollo and other top Judiciary officials.

In his October 2 letter rejecting Justice Kisaakye’s request, the President reasons that she is still the subject of an ongoing inquiry and so cannot leave just yet. 

The inquiry being conducted by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is looking into comments the judge allegedly made about Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo at the tail end of a 2021 presidential poll petition hearing at the Supreme Court.

“I have received your letter of the 18th of July, 2023, tendering in your early retirement. As per the law, I cannot obstruct your wishes. However, that will pre-empt the work of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry or the Tribunal,” President Museveni wrote.

The President observed further that, “Apparently, you made some strong statements against the Chief Justice. Either those statements were right or were wrong. It is the Tribunal that can conclude that. It is thereafter that the way forward will be clear for you.”

On July 18 this year, Justice Kisaakye wrote to President Museveni in his capacity as the appointing authority, asking to be allowed to retire early from judicial service. The thrust of her petition was that the Constitution allows her to leave since she is now more than 60 years of age.

By law, Uganda’s Supreme Court judges must retire upon clocking 70 years but can also voluntarily step down ten years before due date. Justice Kisaakye was 63 when she asked to leave.

“On October 12, 2009, you appointed me to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda. As at the time of writing this letter, I have served on the Supreme Court for 13 years and 10 months. Article 144(1) of the Constitution of Uganda permits a judicial officer to retire at any time after attaining the age of 60. I’m now 63 years old. In accordance with the said article, I hereby tender in my early retirement from the Supreme Court,” Justice Kisaakye wrote to the President in July.

“I thank you and the people of Uganda for having given me the opportunity to serve my country as a justice of the Supreme Court,” she added.

Efforts to reach Justice Kisaakye for comment were futile. However, an individual who answered her phone and introduced herself as the judge’s personal assistant, said the jurist was not available.

The judicial inquiry is said to be looking into events occurring on March 18, 2021. On that day, the Supreme Court was thrown into pandemonium, with Justice Kisaakye claiming her file, containing a dissenting ruling in the Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) vs President Museveni presidential election petition, had been unfairly confiscated on the orders of the Chief Justice.

Earlier this year, the JSC advised President Museveni to remove Justice Kisaakye from office and have her investigated for alleged misconduct and for purportedly launching a verbal attack against the Chief Justice.

The recommendation followed a year-long preliminary inquiry by the JSC into the alleged misconduct which reportedly concluded that there exists “some degree of evidence” (prima facie case), that warrants her being investigated by a Tribunal formed by the President.

“The commission is of the considered opinion that a prima facie case has been established through this inquiry of probable grounds of misbehaviour or misconduct, on the part of Hon. Lady Justice Dr Kisaakye,” the recommendations of the commission dated February 8, 2023 said.

It was also advised that, “The Hon. Lady Justice Kisaakye, being a Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda, the commission, recommends that the President appoints a Tribunal, pursuant to Articles 144(2)b; 3 and 4 of the Constitution, for the question of the removal of Hon Dr Justice Kisaakye, from office, to be investigated”.

Justice Kisaakye has since sued the Chief Justice and a dozen other high ranking judicial officers in relation to matter claiming unfair treatment, among others. The suit is still pending hearing before the Constitutional Court.

About Esther Kisaakye

Justice Esther Kitimbo Kisaakye was born on January 18, 1960.
She began her education at  Kyanja Church of Uganda Nursery School in Kampala (1964), attended Wampewo Primary School (1965), Ntinda Primary School (1969-1970), Kibuli Demonstration Primary School (1971) and Kololo Senior Secondary School (1972).

The judge attained the East African Certificate of Education, having studied at Wanyange Girls School in Jinja, where she was fourth best student of the year in the school – 1975; Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education from Trinity College Nabbingo, where she again distinguished herself as the best Arts student of the year in the school - 1977.

Law school
Justice Kisaakye emerged the best student in an undergraduate law class of 78 students at Makerere University in 1981. The following year, she graduated from the Law Development Centre Bar Course, with a post-graduate diploma in legal practice where she was, again the fourth best student.

In 1985, she enrolled as an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. She later in 1994, pursued a Master of Laws from the prestigious Georgetown University in Washington DC, USA.

Twenty-four years later in 2009, she attained a Doctor of Juridical Science from Washington College of Law, American University, Washington DC, USA, where she researched on and submitted a dissertation titled: “Employment Discrimination against Women Lawyers in Uganda: Lessons & Prospects for Enhancing Equal Opportunities for Women in Formal Employment.”

Career path
She was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 2009 where she sits as the most senior judge after the Chief Justice and is fourth highest ranking officer in the entire Judiciary.

Other leadership positions held while a judge include; chairperson of the Judicial Training Committee; chair of the Judicial Monitoring Committee; chair, East African Judicial Training Committee; chair National Association of Women Judges of Uganda and served as the administrative judge of the Supreme Court.

Private practice
Before she joined the Judiciary, Justice Kisaakye between 1999 and 2009, worked in private practice with Kisaakye & Co. Between 1983-1991, she was legal officer, Uganda Commercial bank and senior legal officer at the National Insurance Corporation.

She also worked in the office of the Vice President under former VP, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe as a private legal secretary.

In the world of academia, between 1995-2009, Justice Kisaakye was a law don at Makerere University law school where she taught human rights law, family law, health and the law. She is reputed to have introduced the health and the law course at the faculty.

Justice Kisaakye has also been recipient of several awards, amongst them, female lawyer lifetime achievement, and leadership award.

She was among the unsuccessful candidates who applied to replace former Chief Justice Bart Katureebe upon his retirement in June 2020, before President Museveni picked Justice Owiny-Dollo.