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KAHINDA OTAFIIRE CHEERFULLY BOWS OUT AS PROF KAMUNTU CRUISES IN AT JUSTICE MINISTRY

By Mulengera Reporters

As can be expected, Gen Kahinda Otafiire cracked endless jokes this Wednesday evening as he handed over Justice & Constitutional Affairs office to his successor Prof Ephraim Kamuntu. During the ceremony, Otafiire recalled this being the 2nd time he was ceding political leadership of a government Ministry to the economics Professor who hails from Ankole just like him. First time was the Tourism docket which, upon getting elevated, was ceded to Kamuntu by Otafiire who was then trade Minister.

Cracking endless jokes, Otafiire who has been here for 8 straight years, warned the elderly professor “I know you are a very hardworking fellow but go slow because you aren’t growing young anymore. This ministry [comprising of so many entities and agencies] can break you.” Otafiire, who is moving to Ministry of East African Affairs and Prof Kamuntu said he has virtually been to every Ministry since Museveni became President, confessed fearing for the unknown at his new Ministry. “For the first time I need prayers because I don’t know how things are going to be in that place where I anticipate all sorts of complicated things to be awaiting me.”

Explaining how he came to make Francis Atooke Solicitor General, Otafiire also joked about Harriet Lwabi whom he said shocked him that being the first time he saw a Ugandan declining posting to juicy government positions. “She was the Ag Solicitor General and I had never seen anyone rejecting a job in this country. I lobbied her for a long time but she consistently refused saying over my dead body. I was stuck and I had to bring Francis Atooke who was the Administrator General.” Otafiire recalled how Atooke paradoxically preferred Kasibayo who was State Attorney in Arua making him head of department while bypassing more senior people at the Ministry headquarters but he admitted Atooke saw something he wasn’t seeing because Kasibayo turned out to be excellent. 

He described Kamuntu as studious which is why he is a professor, hardworking and patient to the extent that “I one time bought cows from him and refused to pay yet I was the Minister of justice doing injustice to Prof Kamuntu but he prayed to God who brought a draught and when I saw my cows dying I rushed and paid him with even interest.” Otafiire, who Atooke and AG William Byaruhanga had in earlier speeches described as both serious and hilarious, said he is leaving Justice after 8 years without having had an opportunity to show his tough side because everybody was very good and he never got provoked to show his fury.

He said the 8 years at justice was the longest Museveni kept him in one docket “otherwise I always served for two years and less.” Byaruhanga, who has closely worked with him for 3 and half years, said “serious and hilarious” is what Otafiire has been both in Cabinet and at Bauman which houses the Justice Ministry.

There was also plenty of laughter when AG Byaruhanga said Kamuntu had been Minister for now 40 years since 1979 under Lule, long before many in the audience were born, prompting the amiable Professor to interject saying “yah that’s true but I was Minister for only 2 days.” Byaruhanga, whose sense of humor many scribes were experiencing for the first time, was to later torment Kamuntu again when they gave Otafiire a plaque of appreciation for his long service at Justice prompting the veteran politician from Mitooma to wonder why the same wasn’t being accompanied with a huge khaki envelope. Byaruhanga jokingly said “as legal advisor I want to advise that Prof Kamuntu does that for you personally using his personal money.” The Professor then said ‘where I’m I supposed to get that from,’ to which Byaruhanga replied “You have the money professor because I have already told the people the man has been minister for 40 years. If you didn’t make enough money during that period then you just go away.”

Otafiire advised Kamuntu to pray to stay in the docket for as long as he has because that way it becomes hard for the technical staff to confuse him about anything. “I couldn’t be lied to because I know everything having been here long enough.” As he also joked about the faulty lifts on the building housing the Justice Ministry, Otafiire said he was quite often pushed into involuntary physical exercise, an experience he said he didn’t like at all.

He singled out departments and agencies that had performed extremely well under his supervision referencing on Twebaze Bemanya’s URSB which he told Kamuntu to appreciate as “a cash cow which Bemanya has grown to collecting Shs4.8bn per month compared to mere Shs320m” collected monthly as of 8 years ago when Bisereko served as its pioneer head. He urged Kamuntu to support Bemanya so that URSB can collect even much more “because the potential is there.” He contrasted that with the DPP whose staffers he said still “have a lot to scratch their hands about.” Without divulging details, Otafiire said when he reflects on the DPP inefficiencies, he prides himself saying “I glad I leaving [this place].” He qualified his statement later when he said the DPP just like the Judiciary and AG chambers itself “remain scandalously understaffed” constraining performance, output and service delivery. He said under Byaruhanga, the AG chambers has only 300 lawyers handling over 7000 cases in the different courts. He told Kamuntu the Justice sector is one operating under extreme scarcities ad his personal initiative as the new Minister will be required from time to time.

Otafiire also referenced on the fact the Uganda Human Rights Commission remains without a head following the death of Med Kaggwa late last year and implored Kamuntu to relentlessly remind the President about the same. That Kamuntu should also fast track the process to expand the Court of Appeal from the current 15 to 25 Justices and have its operations decentralized to upcountry towns and districts. He said this is necessary to handle growing number of appeal cases arising from High Court decisions.

He implored Kamuntu to also pay adequate attention to the fact that the High Court, that ideally requires 82 Justices, currently has only 58. Otafiire, who Kamuntu commended for stabilizing the JLOS sector, also made reference to some of the accomplishments the Frank Othembi-led LDC made during his tenure as Justice Minister including operationalizing upcountry branches. He told Kamuntu generally not to worry because he is leaving him with the different institutions that are staffed and headed by people who apply reason as opposed to emotions in the course of their duties. He also pleaded with Kamuntu to work for a strengthened JLOS sector because the economic transformation the President and the other NRM leaders always preach about will only result from “legal stability.” Otafiire also casually complained about the organizers serving guests just water “instead of at least farewell tea.”

Kamuntu, who admitted not knowing anything about the “legal complications” and confessed he is counting on AG William Byaruhanga to bail him out, also cracked many jokes including those relating to Otafiire’s participation in the DR Congo war of the late 1990s. Besides saluting Otafiire for literally serving in all Ministries over the years, Kamuntu described him as a linguist with masterly of many languages including French and as a diplomat who never accepting calling a spade a big spoon “but always called it a spade contrary to diplomatic practice.” (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com). 

  

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