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By John V Sserwaniko

Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has assured judges nobody will intimidate her in the pursuit of her duties. She says that she won’t tolerate interference in her work by the Judiciary. Kadaga gave her remarks earlier today while addressing lawyers and judges at the commencement of the new law year 2018. She was referring to late last year events that saw High Court’s Justice Margaret Oguli summon her to appear and defend herself after aggrieved MPs, led by Semujju Nganda, petitioned Court challenging the manner in which Kadaga suspended them from Parliament. This was at the height of the chaos that surrounded the passing of Magyezi Bill that in effect scrapped the age limit the Constitution had imposed on the President. Responding to the petition, court summoned her to file her defense.

The MPs had also secured an injunction staying Parliamentary proceedings arguing that any further debate would be subjudice to the proceedings that had already commenced in court challenging Kadaga’s decisions. As they stormed Parliament to deliver the court order and serve it into the Speaker, hell broke loose when police descended on them and their lawyers and violently whisked them away. In absence of service, Kadaga safety returned to the House that very afternoon and carried on with the proceedings. In the subsequent days, the plaintiffs’ lawyers led by Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago returned to Court expecting her to appear as required by Court but she twice never turned up. Instead her supporters, accompanied by Police, stormed court and rioted while denouncing the Judge who had issued summons against her.

Chief Justice Katureebe, who was away from station, directed his subordinates to out a statement condemning the riot at Court. A day before the pro-Kadaga riot, Justice Oguli (who Tamale Mirundi had warned on radio would be assaulted if she didn’t leave Kadaga alone) fearfully shunned the MPs and their lawyers. Instead a registrar delivered her new surprise decision advising the MPs to take their matter to Constitutional Court under Article 137 of the Constitution. All these events had one major effect and that was diminishing Kadaga’s popularity and legitimacy amongst especially the legal fraternity whose members equated her acts to contempt of Court. To this day, many lawyers consider it to be an indictment to the rule of law in this country.

So today morning Kadaga got the opportunity and sought to make herself understood amidst heckling from the dissatisfied lawyers. This was the first time she was getting such a privileged opportunity to address members of both the Bar (lawyers) and the Bench (Judges) in one go. Without being prompted by anybody, Kadaga started by saying she wouldn’t accept “tendencies of the Judiciary encroaching on the mandate of Parliament.” She specifically added that: “The Judiciary is free to examine the laws Parliament has made but I have a problem being directed by court to close Parliament when it’s in session just to come and attend Court.” She added; “We have committees of Parliament which have power of the High Court but I can’t imagine one of my committees directing a judge to leave work and come to appear before it.” As hundreds of lawyers pensively listened, Kadaga wondered what was so urgent about the MPs’ petition to the extent that the Judge would entertain their complaint when Court was in vacation (holiday). “It’s disturbing that all this was happening when Court is even supposed to be in vacation as if it was an application of Habeas Corpus,” she said.

As a tough-talking Kadaga made this point, a section of the lawyers in the audience heckled with one man loudly wondering “how come she doesn’t know how court operates in vacation; there can be business as long as the lawyers secure certificate of urgency and it applies in many situations and not just habeas corpus.” Being the fighter she is, Kadaga ignored the heckling and fired on. She went into explaining why and how under the laws of parliament it’s not possible for the Speaker to be served when Parliament is in session. She went into explaining what she said is the rationale/the reasoning as to why it’s not only illegal but bad practice for anybody to insist on serving the Speaker when Parliament is in session. “The rationale is that the House shouldn’t be intimidated when doing its work,” she said. Her remarks implied that to her what the suspended MPs tried to serve on her was as ill-intentioned as Justice Steven Kavuma’s order which she dismissed as stupid. Incidentally, the very MPs taking her on this time round praised her when she discarded Kavuma’s “stupid order.”

However, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, speaking immediately after Kadaga, attracted applause and ululations from the cheerful lawyers when he politely responded to Kadaga’s utterances assuring her that Court has a duty to inquire into Parliamentary business once anyone gets aggrieved and petitions them. He started by saluting Kadaga for being the first woman lawyer to open a private law firm in Uganda’s history and then made his point regarding her concerns. As lawyers cheered, Katureebe said: “The Judiciary has no plans to interfere in Parliament’s work but if private citizens proceed under Article 137 and come to us, the Judiciary will have no problem issuing appropriate orders. And if dissatisfied, anyone can appeal.” Famous for fearlessly taking on anybody who utters stuff that amounts to threatening the judiciary or interfering with its work, Katureebe clarified that that the three branches of government should mutually respect each “but harmoniously working together shouldn’t lead to interference in each other’s mandate.” He advised that regardless of the way the Judiciary decides matters brought before it, the other two branches of government shouldn’t connive “to disadvantage the judiciary in the allocation of resources.” He also urged Parliament to compliment Cabinet, which Ag. Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana said last Monday approved the Administration of Judiciary Bill, by expeditiously passing it into law. We at Mulengera news will in the coming days write an insightful article explaining the difference enacting that Bill into law will make for the Judiciary and how it will increase efficiency in the way justice is administered by Katureebe’s judiciary. Katureebe, whose speech was clearly well received by both members of the bench (judges) and the bar (the lawyers), also reminded Parliament and the executive of their duty to expeditiously implement the electoral reforms in a manner the Supreme Court prescribed in the Mbabazi vs. Museveni Election Petition decision. “Electoral reforms should be fully implemented as directed by the Supreme Court and not just part of it,” he said attracting renewed applause from the lawyers. He added that he expects a progress report which Rukutana and everybody else at the AG chambers must submit to him as soon as is practicable. This being the beginning of the New Law Year when accountability is expected, Katureebe run through many of the major accomplishments of the previous year, the challenges faced and what the institution intends to do in the next 12 months. Watch this space for more reporting from today’s event. To comment on this and other Mulengera news stories, call/text us on 0703164755



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