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Give Justice Kikonyogo a break, hold your peace

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th December 2000 03:00 AM

December must be voted Weddings Month. All of a sudden both young and old seem to want part of the marital bliss.

We should learn to respect the institutions we put in place to handle our public affairs By Chibita wa Duallo December must be voted Weddings Month. All of a sudden both young and old seem to want part of the marital bliss. The part that fascinates me most is the marriage banns. When the final one is being made on the day of the wedding, the congregation is advised to say "something now or forever hold their peace". I have always wondered why? Part of the answer seems to have come to me through a letter Sunday Vision of December 24, 2000, said came from 12 judges. They were allegedly protesting the appointment of Justice Kikonyogo as Deputy Chief Justice. I say allegedly because the letter, it was said, was not signed. An unsigned letter of course can be taken only so seriously. It could indicate that someone's name was put without his or her consent hence the lack of a signature. Or, it could mean that the author was in a hurry and forgot to sign. Alternatively it could portray intent without the commitment to be bound. In other words, when push comes to shove, one could always deny since there was no signature. We can only guess at the intent but suffice it to say that, an unsigned document is rarely meant to bind the author. Especially not before a court of law. If anybody should know this very well, it must be a judge of whatever echelon. Under the Constitution, Article 142, Judges, including the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice, are appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and with the approval of Parliament. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), according to Article 146 shall consist of the following: Chairperson and deputy who shall be persons qualified to be appointed as Justices of the Supreme Court. We have Justice Odoki and Justice Kitumba. Other members include two advocates of not less than 15 years' standing, one judge of the Supreme Court, two members of the public and the Attorney General as an ex-officio member. The Commission therefore is not your ordinary ragtag committee, it is a high-powered group. One would therefore imagine that by the time they recommend someone to the President, they should have done thorough homework. Especially an appointee to the lofty offices of Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice. However, the Constitution does not want to leave room for doubt. The appointees have to be approved by Parliament. The Parliament has its Appointments Committee comprised of about 100 people from all the districts of Uganda. In case the Judicial Service Commission overlooked something, surely this committee should be able to get it out. Moreover the nominations were made public about two weeks before the committee finally approved the candidates. Anybody with a complaint had ample time to file it. The idea of a parliamentary approval must have been borrowed from the American system. It reminded me of when President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to succeed the illustrious Thurgood Marshall; it was a battle to get him approved through the Senate. Dirt was flying all over the place but he was eventually approved. More recently, President Bill Clinton was determined to have a female attorney general. Before Janet Reno there were two ladies who were rejected by Senate. One because she had employed an illegal immigrant and another because in High School she had done something for Playboy while skimpily dressed. President Clinton averred that he still believed in their professional capability but Senate refused to approve. Under this model which we copied therefore, Parliament or whoever is opposed to a candidature, can therefore cause its failure. If somebody therefore goes through the sieve at the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliament, then why should the country believe that a third or fourth one, not constitutionally instituted to play that role, is more thorough? Is it possible that the Judicial Service Commission and Parliament were so rash they did not come across all these allegations against Justice Kikonyogo? Or is it more probable that they heard them, considered them and found them inconsequential? Is it possible that one person, or a group of people are opposed to the nomination and will do anything to try and stop it? I think we should learn to respect the institutions we put in place to handle different aspects of the country's public affairs. Otherwise there will never be an end to any matter. Which is why at a wedding, the priest has to say that either you say something now or forever you hold your peace. Otherwise marriages would never thrive. Every so many years someone could come and raise an objection. So it should be with appointments, especially of a judicial nature. Ends

Give Justice Kikonyogo a break, hold your peace

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