Nyombi: The passing of a troubled legal star

Former Attorney General Peter Nyombi. FILE PHOTO

Kampala- It’s curtain fall for former Attorney General Peter Nyombi, a religious man and legal icon who lived both a high-status and troubled life.
“…everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with Him through Jesus Christ who sets them free. God offered Him that by His blood He should become the means by which peoples’ sins are forgiven through their faith in Him…” reads the Bible’s book of Romans 3:23-25.

Probably allegory suits Uganda’s former Attorney General.
The entire 64 years of his life, Nyombi has seen it all and lived it all. He combined family, religion, hard work, professionalism, teaching and controversies.

He was a moralist, religious, quiet man and trainer especially in his field as a lawyer. But he was also prone to blatant errors and failings during his rise and setbacks in his legal career.

Between 1977 and 1986, he worked as a State Attorney in the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Ministry of Justice.

Later he served as Counsel in the Office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG) from 1986 to 1996 before he was appointed the Director of Legal Affairs in the office of the IGG.

In 2001, he opened his own law firm, Nyombi and Company Advocates, which is still operational.

Nyombi was elected to Parliament in 2001 representing Buruuli County in Nakasongola District and was subsequently appointed to Cabinet as Attorney General from May 2011 to March 2015.
He was known for handling adoption and land related cases among others in his private practice.

What others say of him
The minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, described Nyombi as an amiable, unassuming, hard worker and quiet person.

“He did his best from what he learnt. He was industrious,” said Gen Otafiire.

His wife, Juliana K Nyombi, said her husband was a loving, smart and a role-model family man and died satisfied without a complaint against anyone.

“He was a born-again of the Revival Fellowship of Namirembe and his priority was the church, especially after serving in the public office. He was a father, caretaker and provider in all ways,” she said.

Mr Andrew Peter Makanga, his son and employee at his law firm who was with him at the time of death, said his father was a teacher, employer and a caring father.

“He was the most honest, principled and exemplary man I have known. I have seen him fall sick a number of times but no single day did he stop working. He never wanted to change his programmes and he worked up to Saturday and he was at church yesterday (Sunday),” Makanga narrated.

He added: “We are thankful to God that he was saved and we have been able to maximise the time he provided. We do not regret because it was a life well lived. After Parliament, he still went back to help his constituents to handle land related matters.”

However, Nyombi’s public life as Attorney General was not spotless.
During his tenure as the government chief legal advisor, Nyombi can easily be described as one of the most publicly discussed individuals in the country.

His legal opinions backing the appointment of Gen Aronda Nyakairima (RIP) as a Cabinet minister while he was still a serving army officer, his approval of Benjamin Odoki’s reappointment as Chief Justice which was later nullified by the Constitutional Court inflicted huge blots on his legal career.

His endorsement of Aronda for Cabinet post when he was a soldier and Odoki to re-head the judiciary when he had hit the mandatory retirement age earned Nyombi mockery and ridicule rather than integrity.

These two incidents reflected huge lapses in his judgment as the government’s chief legal advisor. He offered several legal opinions to government which were challenged in court.

His failings
However, Nyombi was not a man who would just fall without a fight. He is remembered for suing the Uganda Law Society for declaring him incompetent as Attorney General or advocate.

A group of lawyers had petitioned the Uganda Law Society (ULS) to call a general meeting to suspend Nyombi on accusations of misadvising or failure to advise government against re-appointing Justice Odoki and Gen Aronda.

They also accused him of messing up the case of Mr Severino Twinobusingye versus the Attorney General where MPs were rooting for censure of the then prime minister Amama Mbabazi on claims that he had solicited bribes from one of the oil exploration companies.

Twinobusingye won the case and was awarded Shs13b as costs but the Court of Appeal later quashed the costs to a much lower figure.

The lawyers accused Nyombi of turning hostile to Parliament in Court and giving unsolicited opinion to the Speaker by condemning and castigating her for her ruling to retaining in the House MPs who had been expelled from their ruling NRM party.

Nyombi who replaced Prof Kiddu Makubuya as Attorney General, was dropped in March 2015.

In 2014, at the New Law Year event, the legal fraternity was treated to drama as a human rights activist Andrew Karamagi walked to the podium where Nyombi was giving his remarks and whispered into his ears before grabbing his speech script.

Karamagi was immediately grabbed by police and later prosecuted.

Karamagi was charged with being a nuisance at the Buganda Road Court and later released on bail. His trial is still pending in court.
MacDusman Kabega, a senior lawyer described Nyombi as a religious man whom he knew for his honesty.

“It is so saddening to learn of his death having been a good friend because of his high integrity that led to his appointment as AG,” Ms Kabega said.

Ms Fatuma Omar, an advocate who had been working under Nyombi’s supervision for a decade until last Saturday, described him as an extra-ordinary teacher, employer and trainer.

“He has been tough on time keeping, training and above all he was appreciative. He was intelligent and smart but it was difficult to know that if you were not close to him. He lived a unique and principled life,” she said.

The Ministry of Justice yesterday said Nyombi’s tenure as AG was characteriesed by distinguished service to the nation and dedication to the administration of justice and rule of law in Uganda.


Education: Nyombi was born on April 23, 1954, to a teacher, Eriakam Kajja Nyombi, who died in December last year. He attended Nakasongola Primary School and later joined King’s College Budo for Ordinary and Advanced level education.

In 1973, he joined Makerere University to study Law. Nyombi later joined Law Development Centre for a diploma in Legal Practice. In 1997, he joined the Ministry of Justice as a State Attorney, rising to Senior State Attorney, Principal State Attorney and later assigned to work with the Commission of Inquiry in the Prime Minister’s office.