Museveni trashes Judiciary: Had I been CJ, I’d have stood up, cleared my throat

Author: Gawaya Tegulle. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • ‘‘The Judiciary, for obvious reasons, is the most sacrosanct of all the pillars of State”

Of course, everyone has their methods of work. “Bernie Boy” – Bernard Oundo – definitely has his. 
But had I been president of the Uganda Law Society, I would have walked out, with all my lawyers, the moment the President declared that court orders, on grounds of being deemed ‘rubbish’, can be overruled by a Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and politicians generally. 
Had I been the Chief Justice, I would have, without any further ado, at the earliest possible opportunity, raised an objection and then taken steps to engage all the pillars of State – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary – to address what amounts to overthrowing the Constitution… and authorising chaos that would then, predictably, be sorted out by martial law. 

At the very least, when the President uttered the sacrilegious statement, I would have stood up, looked around slowly and cleared my throat!
The Judiciary, for obvious reasons, is the most sacrosanct of all the pillars of State; and must be handled with respect and care. When a society, through its Constitution, chooses the path of rule of law, it has, inter alia, declared that everyone is bound by the law – regardless of whether you are the ruler or the ruled. 

And it trusts that any disputes arising between any parties will be settled by a well-trained, well-managed and independent Judiciary. 
But the President chose the 50th anniversary of murdered Chief Justice Ben Kiwanuka to warn the Judiciary to go slow in demanding independence. 
Why was Kiwanuka murdered? For daring to oppose the president of the day. The symbolism here is, therefore, unmistakable in clarity.

The institution of law exists, inter alia, to ensure that there is predictability, clarity, certainty to life that guarantees the stability of society. 
That is why civilised countries entrench equality of all people before and under the law. The moment you tamper with this arrangement, you are endorsing chaos and commotion in society. 
When a court order is rubbish, then the person who issued it is rubbish and the institution that the person represents is rubbish. 
The President, in essence, trashed the Constitution and the Judiciary and cleared the way for anarchy. 

The Presidential address was an excellent way to demoralise the Judiciary properly and steadily destroy it altogether. For the cadre judges, strategically placed by the system to protect and promote its illegalities, all is well. 
But then again you have some really serious judges who accessed the bench on pure merit – Justice Stephen Mubiru is probably the poster boy of this category – and who manifestly put all their life in coming up with a reasoned judgment.  
Why should Justice Mubiru waste man-days in research when an RDC who sips malwa and kwete all day at the local bar is waiting to trash his court order? Why should lawyers now bother preparing for court cases? Why should people go to court and not to the RDC?

The issue about court orders is simple: if you don’t agree with it, use the mechanisms available to get the remedies you seek – you can appeal, review, revise, quash or set aside. 
Trashing court authority is a sign that judicial power has reverted to the President and his agents: you can run to Balaam or Bebe Cool when you lose a case.
The President’s latest blunder also suggests one thing. If any of the Supreme Court petitions against Mr Museveni’s election “victories” and the very dicey age limit issue had gone against him, he probably would have casually trashed all the orders of court and continued in power anyway. 

Lest it be forgotten, when the Constitutional Court in June 2004 nullified the Referendum Act of 2000 and everything done under it, including the referendum on political systems, an angry President attacked the judges, live on television, accusing them of usurping the power of the people.
Sycophants will laud the President for his “wisdom”. 
But those who love Uganda will be alarmed that the President could be, with each passing year, dragging this country further down the drain.

Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda     [email protected]

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