In 2015, retired Supreme Court Justice, George William Kanyeihamba went to the Constitutional Court to file an urgent application. The application was about stopping Justice Steven Kavuma from being confirmed as the Deputy Chief Justice. This contested effort, as President Museveni had decreed.
Justice Kavuma had not been lined up by the judicial service commision to vie for the post! But synonymous of doing things his way, the President just sneaked in his name, the same being his uncompromising loyal cadre.For that matter, two lawyers, Eron Kiiza and Gerald Karuhanga quickly enlisted the legal services of Kanyeihamba to file a petition to question the presidential action.
The two Counsels to the petitioner would take the case to the court registry by themselves for purposes of registering the same. Having found an empty registry staring at them, they rang up Kanyeihamba to come over and ostensibly use his clout to have the petition filed. The visit would turn out to be an uneventful one. This,since the globally acclaimed legal mind would too, fail to get any staff member around to assist him to register the application which was very urgent.
Overwhelmed by what was going on, the elderly learned former Attorney General would end up breaking down and wailing uncontrollably there in the open. “I cry for my country. I cry for the rule of law in this country. I cry for the Constitution of my country. Even Idi Amin, dictatorial as he was, never blocked anyone from filing his or her case,” Prof Kanyeihamba famously went on record.
While he was thus there weeping, Justice Kavuma was, on the other hand, getting approved by Parliament to become the Deputy Chief Justice which Kanyeihamba had loathed to happen. Before going to Parliament for his final approval as the DCJ, Kavuma had issued out stern instructions to the court registry staff to deny Kanyeihamba audience.
History at Own Repeat?
Seven years later, Judges appear to be walking in Kavuma’s footsteps. This, as they use the trip of hiding themselves to deny suspects either the right to be heard or to receive bail. Take the example of Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinnya, the two legislators subscribing to the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP). The MPs have been appearing in court ready to apply for bail or to have their terrorism and murder alleged cases heard, but only to find the trial Judge absent. That the President had strenuouslyopposed the grant of bail to the two assertive MPs, is more than instructive about what is now going currently.
The judge in charge of the trial, Justice Alice Komuhangi Khauka has not been turning up at the hearing of the MPs’ bail application, on two consecutive occassions now. And for that reason, the same bail application has been failing to proceed on all those occassions hence ensuring the legislatfors’ continued incarceration. In her absence, the hearing of the case together with the bail application, were now both pushed to February next year, with the hope the same processes are finally going to come to pass.
Such postponement of the case, effectively means the two legislators are going to spend this Christmas season in prison, just as it was the case last year. Before Komuhangi, who the President picked from the DPP’s office to turn into a judge, the trial was being conducted by Justice Jane Alividiza. Alividiza had vowed to go ahead and grant bail to the legislators, should the State continue to fail to start the hearing of the case as the stood then.
Fearing she was going to live by her vow one day, Justice Alividiza was removed and, that is how Komuhangi would end up being put in charge of the trial but which still has never commenced. Prior to that, the trial was supposed to take place in Masaka, but the same was transferred to Kampala with the judiciary threatening to release the suspects on bail after a long time without the State tabling evidence incriminating them.
While the trial was finally going to get underway, one of the suspects, who the State had plotted to turn into a key witness, to claim how the MPs had paid him to hack people in Masaka, told court how he had been arrested for violating Covid 19 standard procedures instead. This, before he was later coerced by the State to supposedly frame the legislators.
In another quite related scenario, the same judge failed to turn up in court last Tuesday, to hear an application seeking to have the abducted bodyguard of the President of NUP, Bobi Wine, produced before court by whichever security organ which could be presently holding him. Jamushid Kavuma was violently arrested by the operatives thought to be that of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence more than a month now.
Upon his arrest, Kavuma was bundled into the notoriously dreaded Drone vehicle by his captors and driven off to where no one can tell exactly, but where, it is rumored to be Mbuya military barracks. It is alleged that during his kidnap, Kavuma was shot in the ribs and that his health has with time been degenerating. And, it is suspected, this could be the reason why, perhaps, the military is unwilling to release him to court yet.
These are, but just a few cases where judicial officers have lately devised the plot of hide and seek in order to prolong the hearing of the cases or to deny bail to the suspects involved and where, most importantly, the State could be having vested interests. Such scenarios would ideally offend the right to a quick, speedy and fair trial. But who cares, the State must have it’s wish granted, and, the judiciary is willing to dance along.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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