Stay in your lane, CJ Dollo tells Nabbanja

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo speaks at the annual conference for magistrates and registrars in Kampala on November 28, 2022. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • This comes after the Prime Minister recently stormed Mengo Magistrate’s Court to rescue a widow from jail.
     

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo yesterday asked Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to keep in her lane and not interfere with judicial work that is protected by the Constitution.

Justice Dollo described Ms Nabbanja’s recent storming of Mengo Magistrate’s Court where she rescued a widow, Ms Gertrude Nalule, from jail as “unfortunate, unacceptable, and a total outrage”.

Ms Nalule had been jailed over an outstanding civil debt of Shs2.8m.
“What took place in court that Monday was unfortunate, unacceptable, a total outrage,” said the Chief Justice amid applause from more than 400 magistrates and registrars who were attending their annual conference.

“If the purpose of going to court is what took place, I think the Rt Hon Prime Minister should have known that this country has got a Chief Justice,” Justice Dollo said.

“She should have known … at least she reads the Constitution and she understands that there is a principal judge, who is in charge of the High Court and the magistrate court. There is a chief registrar whom they called and gave reason, which they acted on,” he added.

The head of the Judiciary branded Ms Nabbanja’s actions as misplacement of her zeal.
“…But I also want to commend the Prime Minister for her zeal, except that this time, it was misplaced. We hear about many things, such as Isimba dam being closed, two months after it was commissioned, that is the place where she should be going,” he said.

The Chief Justice, who is the fourth most important person in the country after the President, Vice President and Speaker of Parliament, said he could not just look on as the institution he leads was being attacked.

“I would be failing in my duty as the head of the Judiciary to defend the judicial officers if I kept quiet. I would be failing in my duties as a Ugandan to see this type of abuse of the constitution and I keep quiet. I will not be forgiven for keeping quiet,” he said.

Upon paying up the outstanding debt on Tuesday, Ms Nabbanja claimed there were lots of loopholes in the case that needed to be fixed.

“I have paid the money to release the woman, there are a lot of loopholes in this case, which the court needs to fix,” she said a while rescuing the widow.

Ms Nalule had been sent to prison after failing to pay Shs2.8m in damages to Mr Godfrey Bazaale, one of her neighbours.

But the Chief Justice yesterday said court records show that the widow was summoned twice to come to court and defend herself but she refused.

Justice Dollo said whatever happened to Ms Nalule shouldn’t have been blamed on the court since the magistrate in the case did due diligence, before urging all judicial officers not to be intimidated by anyone as they go about their judicial work.

“…Because I believe in harmony, in the three arms of government, I take it that my good sister slipped. We will sit down and find a solution to this. But to the officers of the Judiciary, I am asking you, do not take it personal against the Prime Minister; no, if she is a litigant in your court, do justice because you took oath never to revenge,” Justice Dollo said.

He added: “But because we take special oath, never to fear, so don’t be intimidated with so whoever comes to your court and tries to tell you to do things against your oath.”

Article 128 of the Constitution gives the Judiciary independence as it performs its duties.
“In the exercise of judicial power, the courts shall be independent and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. No person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions,” reads in part the Constitution.

The Chief Justice also revealed that the Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, is brokering the strained relationship between the courts and the Prime Minister.

“I thank the learned Attorney General who has got in touch with me to find a solution. But I thought he will find a solution when I have made my position clear that the Judiciary of Uganda will never be intimidated under my watch, it will not happen,” he said.

When contacted last evening, Mr Kiryowa confirmed having talked to the two principals.

Efforts to reach out to the Prime Minister were futile as she is out of the country in Japan.

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