HOW APOLLO KANTINTI DAD’S DEATH MOVED M7 ON JUDGES’ POST-RETIREMENT PLIGHT
By Mulengera Reporters
Some years ago, Kyaddondo East politician Apollo Kantinti’s dad (who was enjoying his retirement as a High Court judge) went out for a social evening at Kitante Golf Course. After enjoying the evening with friends, Justice Kantinti opted to return home to sleep but got knocked dead by a speeding motorist as he crossed the road towards nearby Fair Way Hotel. The public debate that followed reflected on what exactly was making judges to descend in such extreme poverty upon retirement to the extent that Justice Kantinti didn’t even have a personal car and had to cross the road to find a special hire back home.
Feeling embarrassed, the government of President Museveni came up with a cabinet position that resulted into ex gratia payments being made to each of the judges as they retired. This one off payment would be in form of a house and a car or money in lieu of the same. This would supplement on the very little pension the judges were already earning under the Pensions Act. The Chief Justice (who was for many years the topmost earning public official whose pay was above that of the President and even Speaker) was to be subsequently catered for under the Salaries & Allowances (Specific Officers) Act that was enacted and came into force in October 1999. The same applied to the DCJ and other officials categorized as Specific.
Even after getting cars and houses upon retirement, judges continued to lead very miserable lives after retiring from active service largely because the Pensions Act didn’t adequately remunerate them via pension and gratuity payments. It was such a huge dilemma because by that time the judges are terribly aged and yet, as Justice Kanyeihamba’s post-retirement experienced has showed in the recent years, they can’t fit into private legal practice. Some upon retirement started living under incomplete houses in the poor suburbs of Kampala as others agonized on getting terminally ill. Some few like Benjamin Odoki were lucky they had some nice houses they acquired during the earlier years when government permitted civil servants to become owners of their houses under the sitting tenant arrangements. That is how Justice Benjamin Odoki became the owner of the prime residential property in Kololo along Prince Philip Drive. Wako Wambuzi wasn’t that lucky because that sitting tenant arrangement came with he was CJ yet the CJ official residence in Nakasero can’t be inherited that way because it’s an official residence to which whoever gets the CJ job automatically becomes entitled. Wambuzi nevertheless used his Shs400m, which has, as a matter of practice, been always given to a retiring CJ, to purchase a residential property in Ntinda Minister’s Village.
On getting full facts about especially former DCJ Letitia Kikonyogo, who was frail and suffering in a wheelchair as her equally constrained husband helplessly looked on, President Museveni started lobbying for the judges to get better facilitation upon retirement. He would eloquently argue in meetings with the relevant government officials that judges deserved better retirement package than what the Pensions Act offered because they are highly qualified, do a lot of work and yet they can’t successfully engage in private legal practice after retirement. Museveni also persuasively argued it was possible to send them off in more dignified ways that government has finally enabled through enacting the Administration of Justice Act because they are after all not very many.
As Museveni lobbied, Bart Katureebe (who became CJ in March 2015 and has been able to deliver that Act which his predecessors failed) was also busy engaging the different stakeholders to deepen understand and create consensus that the honorable Justices indeed deserved better to finally placate themselves upon retirement. He had to engage donors, Speaker of Parliament, Finance Ministry officials, individual MPs considered influential and in the end delivered a piece of legislation that will materially cater for not only serving judicial officers but even those who retired earlier (see related reporting here; https://mulengeranews.com/inside-the-m7-munyonyo-meeting-that-led-to-cj-katurebe-retiring-with-his-full-salary-more/). This is the very reason many fellow Justices that retired earlier are now full of praises for the 70-year-old Katurebe from Rugazi Village Bunyaruguru County Rubirizi district. It was his prudent approach of avoiding confrontation that made everyone comfortable and understand that more enhanced retirement terms for judicial officers was justified and long overdue.
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