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Who will be the next Attorney General?

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th May 2004 03:00 AM

The demise of Attorney General Francis Ayume and foreign minister James Wapakhabulo has created a gap in the cabinet, which must be filled urgently given the anticipated constitutional changes.

The demise of Attorney General Francis Ayume and foreign minister James Wapakhabulo has created a gap in the cabinet, which must be filled urgently given the anticipated constitutional changes.
Both were trusted lawyers who helped the Government either to draft laws or defend crucial bills during debate in parliament until they were enacted.
The president must be flipping through his files and scratching his head hard to find the right men or women to fill the two pairs of ‘big’ shoes’! Such a person must be a loyal, articulate lawyer with impeccable support for the Movement
Filling Ayume’s shoes may call for some urgency — the President not being insensitive about his death but considering the AG’s role in the transition from Movement to pluralism that is before the nation. The new AG must ensure that whichever step or choice made is insulated from litigation.
President Museveni’s options and spectrum to choose from may be wide but is limited because he will certainly be looking for quality. He can decide to pick from his cabinet and see whether, realignment is possible from within. That will help him decide whether to pick from among the cabinet members in effect making a mini reshuffle.
Unlike ministerial positions the job of Attorney General is not a bed of roses. It is specifically for those with legal background, knowledge of how the Government operates and can stand the heat in court if things go wrong.
Ayume had been all: He was once a state attorney, solicitor general and attorney general and above all, as he was eulogised ‘cool headed.’
The current volatile political environment will require someone who can ably advise the Government and interpret laws without leaving room for petitioners to take it to Court.
Two factors will be considered; the person to be appointed must be qualified to practice law and must be a Movement loyalist. It will not be about regional balancing, as may be in the case with late Wapakhabulo’s job second deputy prime minster and minister of Foreign Affairs.
Article 191 (1) of the Constitution says there shall be an AG appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament. It goes on to say that a person shall not be qualified to be appointed an AG unless he or she is qualified to practice as an advocate of the High Court and has so practiced or gained the necessary experience for not less than ten years.
From the cabinet, the President will be looking at the profiles of the lawyer ministers who are Brig. Jim Katugugu Muhwezi (Health), Dr. Khiddu Makubya (Education), Amama Mbabazi (Defence), Omwony Ojok (Economic monitoring), Janat Mukwaya (Justice), Adolf Mwesigye (VP’s office), Hope Mwesigye (Parliamentary affairs), Sam Bitangaro (Gender and Culture) Henry Okello Oryem (Sports), Isaac Musumba (Planning), Sam Kutesa (Investments), Mwesigwa Rukutana (Finance General duties), Agard Didi (MicroFinance) and Augustine Nshimye (International Cooperation.
Muhwezi holds a law degree but has not been in active practice. He was minister for Primary Education (1996-98), and director general of the Internal Security Organisation (1986-1996). Before that he represented Rujumbura in the Constituent Assembly (1994-94) and was the National Resistance Council member from 1986-1996. He was also a former officer in charge of Mbale police station.
Dr. Makubuya, the Education minister is highly qualified legal practitioner. He has a doctorate in laws. He has been chairing a cabinet subcommittee on legal affairs.
He previously served as state minister for Foreign affairs (International Cooperation) and Luweero Triangle minister. However, he lacks the confidence of MPs who think he is arrogant and not responsive.
Mbabazi is an MP for Kinkizi West Kanungu. President Yoweri Museveni has often relied on his legal advice. He also enjoys the confidence of the President, Museveni having said when campaigning for him in Kinkinzi that he was presidential material. Holding the defence portfolio which the President had kept to himself until lately is proof of this.

He is a holder of an LLB degree from Makerere and a diploma in legal practice.
Mbabazi knows the working of the Government legal team having worked as State Attorney from 1976-78. He was also the secretary of the Uganda Law Council between 1977-79. After that he served as director Legal Services in the UNLA government.
He was the first director general of NRM External Security Organisation a position he held from 1986-1992. He was later appointed state minister for Defence and as state minister for Regional Cooperation in the Foreign affairs ministry.
But Mbabazi who has a grasp of Defence issues is unlikely to be assigned the AG’s job. The President may need him for mobilisation when party politics takes shape.
Ojwok hails from Kotido district. He has a Masters in International law and MA in International Relations. Between 1977 and 1979, Ojwok was a law lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam. After that he served as the Secretary to the National Consultative Council, which was Uganda’s interim parliament after the fall of Idi Amin’s regime.
In 1994, he was appointed the director general of Uganda Aids Commission a position he held until 1999 when he was named state minister in charge of Northern Uganda. Ojwok has been reviewing the Movement Act and recommended that the Act be put in abeyance if Uganda goes multiparty.
Mukwaya is a political scientist whose only legal background is having been a Grade II magistrate during Obote II regime. Although the constitutional requirement might not be in her favour, Mukwaya, as constitutional affairs minister has defended turf on the floor of parliament. She has on many occasions out-argued MPs that holding that portfolio one shouldn’t be necessarily a lawyer just as none of the MPs studied to legislate.
Sam Bitangaro, the State Minister for Gender and Culture and Adolf Mwesige, minister in the Vice–President’s office are the new kids on the political block but with dazzling prospects.
Bitangaro, the MP for Bufumbira south, is a man who has had the President’s confidence. He once acted as Attorney General when Ayume was out of the country’ even when he was not a deputy.
He shot to fame when he represented London based Asian Harsh Kumar in a case involving Col. Kahinda Otafiire where the former complained that he lost copper rivets in the deal where the minister was allegedly involved. He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere and a diploma in legal practice. His special interest is conflict resolution. His loyalty was given a further boost when he joined the team of lawyers that defended Museveni in an election petition filed by 2001 presidential election loser Col. Dr Kizza Besigye.

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Adolf Mwesigye could be just one of the ministers most favoured for the job although his age may betray him. Born in 1966, Mwesige has handled legal issues in Parliament to the satisfaction of both the executive and MPs. Before joining cabinet he chaired the legal and parliamentary affairs committee that scrutinises all bills before they are debated in parliament.
His first appointment as cabinet minister being in the office of the Vice president may be a wink that better things lay ahead. In his stint as minister, since last year, he has on several occasions rose up to defend the government in the House when it’s facing an onslaught from backbenchers.
He is a partner in Mwesige, Egunyu and Co advocates. He was a Foreign Service officer before joining politics. Mwesige and Bitangaro have been working on a review of the Parliamentary Elections Act and Political Parties and Organisations Act in the cabinet.
Hope Mwesigye, the Kabale Women Representative, is another candidate. She is the third minister for Parliamentary affairs whose main duties are to bridge the gap between the MPs and the executive. In some of the most contentious issues she has played the fire brigade role; mobilising for numbers in the House when a vital vote was being taken.
She a former senior state attorney and knows the working of the justice ministry. Her only undoing is that she is not popular among the moderate Movementists and multipartysts, many accusing her of being a radical.
Henry Oryem son of former military head-of-state Gen. Tito Okello is also a new arrival in Ugandan politics having spent most of his life in London. He has a masters in law from the UK.
He is the MP for Chwa county, Kitgum. He was rewarded with the ministerial post for having defeated the brilliant but acid tongued legislator and sworn multipartyst in the sixth Parliament Livingstone Okello Okello. Oryem was a legal executive in a law firm in the UK before returning to Uganda.
Isaac Musumba, the flamboyant state minister for finance in charge of planning is another legal practitioner with a Masters’ degree in taxation law. In Parliament he has presented himself as somebody who has the mastery of legal and economic matters. He is the MP for Buzaaya county.
Sam Kutesa, the state minister for Investments, is another potential candidate. Having served as Attorney General from 1985-1986 makes him better suited. He has been in private legal practice since 1973 and is well conversant with the laws.
He was the DP Member of Parliament for Mbarara North between 1980 and 1985 after defeating President Yoweri Museveni then of Uganda Patriotic Movement in the 1980 polls. Kutesa is the MP for Mawogola County in Sembabule district.
Mwesigwa Rukutana, the State Minister for Finance-General duties has also been in private practice for long. He was a registrar of Titles in the Lands ministry (1986-88), an advocate with Katende, Ssempebwa and Company advocates (1986-92), lecturer in law at the Law Development Centre and Constituent Assembly delegate. He is a shrewd lawyer.
Agard Didi the minister of state for Micro Finance is also a practicising lawyer. But he is the least likely candidate although he has been in private practice. His icy relationship with the Prime Minister Prof. Apollo Nsibambi almost led to his sacking in 2002.
Augustine Nshimye Sebutulo, the MP for Mityana south and State minister Foreign Affairs –International Cooperation has also been in private practice since 1989. He was a chief Magistrate in Kampala 1983-84, Masindi 1985 and the deputy chief Registrar –High court 1986-88.
Alternatively, the president can appoint somebody from outside Cabinet preferably an MP with legal mind or friendly lawyers from outside Parliament to serve as an ex-officio MP.
Those who could be potential candidates include Wandera Ogallo, member of the East African Legislative Assembly, who is a constitutional lawyer, Benedict Mutyaba who was a member of the Constitutional Review Commission and a co-opted member of the cabinet committee preparing the roadmap and Rebecca Kadaga the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. But for Kadaga this could be a demotion as her job is a high profile one.
Inspector General of Government (IGG) Jotham Tumwesigye is another candidate. Tumwesigye’s contract expires soon and is not renewable. His experience as IGG and former NRM’s director of Legal affairs would give him an edge over other candidates.
Others are Col. Noble Mayombo, the Chief of Military Intelligence and Army Representative in Parliament and Lt. Gen David Tinyefuza. The President once said Mayombo helps him a lot on legal issues together with Mbabazi. But the appointment of any of these officers will be seen as an attempt by the President to militarise the Judiciary.
Others are Fred Ruhindi the MP for Nakawa who was a former State Attorney in the Justice ministry from 1992-1999 although he is looked at as not a steady Movementist, Dora Byamukama, the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary committee, Abdu Katuntu, John Kawanga and both former state attorneys but their leanings to multipartysts rules them out. So is Jacob Oulanyah. Miria Matembe a former minister and member of the Uganda Constitutional Commission could be a possible candidate but her lashing out at the Government following her dismissal last year makes impossible for her to be reappointed to cabinet.
The AG position is at full ministerial level. The person appointed must be able to ensure successful implementation of the proposed political roadmap and handle all the amendments in Parliament ably.
President Museveni said in his condolence message that Ayume’s biggest task would have been to respond to the CRC recommendations.
The cabinet report will be largely technical and it will require the expertise of the legal brains to guide the Parliament and the entire country.
The President has the master card and he is keeping it to his chest.

Who will be the next Attorney General?

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