Parliament has yesterday approved the appointment of Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and his Deputy Richard Buteera.
This comes a few days after their appointment was heavily contested by city lawyer Male Mabirizi.
Mabirizi, on being asked why he’d contest the appointment of the Judges said that as a civically active Ugandan, he was merely contesting the constitutional procedural irregularities in which Richard Butera was appointed. Mabirizi alleges that at the time of Richard Buteera’s nomination as the new Deputy Chief Justice, the said position was not vacant. He continued to say that the said position, was not advertised by the Judicial Service Commission as required by the law under Article 144(1).
The two appeared before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee chaired by the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in which they were asked questions and were scored at the same time.
A Member of Parliament who attended the commission meeting said that the major issue that was raised was how the two arms of government, legislature, and the judiciary could work together with the aim of reducing the prevailing friction. The two have had a longstanding battle where they have failed to agree on several issues such as on the probe into the Shs 6 billion oil cash bonanza after former Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma issued an order stopping an inquiry into the matter. Kadaga quashed the order on top of calling it “stupid”.
The Speaker also challenged Court for “stopping parliament from doing its work” when the court ruled that the Shs 10 billion cash payouts to MPs for COVID-19 intervention was irregular. Kadaga, according to sources who attended the meeting, permitted two MP’s Moses Balyeku and Atkins Katusabe to ask questions on her behalf and score the judges.
The MPs reportedly scored the two justices who were interviewed separately on their experience, competence, and achievements among others. Other legislators in attendance say both nominees excelled and were instantly approved.
“They all deserve it as they were very experienced and competent. The only issue that came up was the one on how the two arms of government can work together,” the source said.
When interviewed, the two justices were all confident that they would make it saying the engagement with the committee was fruitful. They committed to fighting corruption in the judiciary and handling the matter of case backlog.
On the independence of the Judiciary, Owiny-Dollo says that he has personally remained very independent and has severally ruled in favour of the opposition and against the government. He says that those who think the independence of the Judiciary is about making a decision against the government are wrong.
Regarding case backlog, Owiny-Dollo told the appointments committee that they need a good number of Judges if the issues of backlogs are to change. He says that if the issues of more judges are not addressed, then even the next chief justice will still be asked the same after him.
Buteera on his part said that delayed trials frustrate the public and that is what he hopes to achieve. He says the acute shortage in the number of judges should be handled. On corruption, he says it is giving a bad image to the judiciary, and the corrupt judiciary officers should be made to answer for them.
Parliament will now forward these names to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.