Male Mabirizi: It’s time to question CJ Katureebe

Between May 30 and June 6, 2019, I was in Mityana, Mubende, Kyenjojo, Fort Portal and Kasese fundraising for Shs 394 million to help finance my costs as we seek to annul the removal of the age limit for presidential candidates from our Constitution at the East African Court of Justice.

While people in the countryside are victims of poor service delivery and the breakdown of the rule of law, a group of elites is highly guarded by policemen who are supposed to be policing the countryside. Take Bart Katureebe, the chief justice, who has just returned from abroad for treatment and yet many Ugandans like me are treated in our dilapidated health system.

In The Observer of July 24, 2016, Katureebe stated: “…I explained to my father what I was going to study at Makerere. He was really disappointed. He said that people had told him that lawyers were liars, thieves. He had a very different view of what lawyers are…” Unfortunately, based on his actions, Katureebe is slowing joining this crop of lawyers.

Katureebe has disobeyed the Constitution, upheld its illegal and violent amendment, made judgments which defeat common sense and openly divided the apex court, putting justice at a great risk.

In 2013, Article 131(2) of the Constitution provided that “When hearing appeals from decisions of the Court of Appeal sitting as a constitutional court, the Supreme court shall consist of a full bench of all members of the Supreme court…”

In Ssekikubo’s case, Katureebe convened court without Justice Arach Amoko and when challenged by Mr. Elison Karuhanga, Katureebe answered, “We are properly constituted.” This was not true; that is why the Constitution was amended in 2015 to provide for a quorum of seven justices.

On May 28, 2019, Katureebe was quoted: “I later decided that all the 11 justices be involved in the appeal even if not all of us were to be on the seven-man panel…” There is no law empowering Supreme Court justices to merely be involved in cases. What Section 7 of the Judicature Act provides for is “hearing and determining an appeal.”

In The Observer of March 11, 2015, Katureebe said: “I sit at the Supreme court and as far as I know, there is no division at all…”

However, four years into his tenure as chief justice, he has split the court. On May 28, 2019, Katureebe said that “Composing a panel is a discretion of the Chief Justice. She (Justice Faith Mwondha) is the only one complaining out of the four justices who were left out, why?”

That was a response to Justice Mwondha’s memo to him where the former IGG wrote, “When the panel was constituted, I was not consulted…,”, “…your lordship have consistently and deliberately depicted me as a non-performer for your own reasons unknown to me…you have completely ignored my seniority and experience on the bench in the judiciary and elsewhere,” and “…let me restate that the reason as to why I am not participating in the appeal in issue is not that I am out of the country….I have put the record straight bearing in mind that the truth shall set me free.”

From the words of Justice Mwondha, Katureebe was dishonest in stating that she was not taking part in the age-limit appeal due to her travel abroad. If Mwondha’s accusation was true, shouldn’t we question Katureebe’s role as chief justice in protecting our constitution?

Katureebe has slowly dug deep pits within the Supreme court whose victims will be the litigants.

The author is a petitioner against age-limit removal.

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