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New judges speak out on expectations in new job

By Charles Etukuri

Added 14th January 2020 08:09 PM

After approval by the appointments Committee of Parliament, the judges were today sworn in at a ceremony at State House, Entebbe

New judges speak out on expectations in new job

President Yoweri Museveni (fourth left) with Chief Justice Bat Katureebe (third left), Deputy Chief Justice Owiny Dollo (fourth right),Justice Minister Ephrahim Kamuntu (third right), newly sworn in Principal Judge Dr.Flavian Zeija (second left), Supreme Court Justices Mike Chibita (left),Percy Tuhaise (second right) and Ezekiel Muhanguzi (right) at State House Entebbe on Tuesday January 14,2020 (Photos by Mpalanyi Ssentongo)

After approval by the appointments Committee of Parliament, the judges were today sworn in at a ceremony at State House, Entebbe

JUDICIARY

Last year, President Yoweri Museveni appointed Justice Zeija Flavia the Principal Judge and Justices Mike Chibita, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Perse Tuhaise judges of the Supreme Court.

After approval by the appointments Committee of Parliament, the judges were today sworn in at a ceremony at State House, Entebbe. Justice Zeija replaces Justice Yorokamu Bamwine who retired after clocking the retirement age of 65 years.

Next year the Chief Justice Katurebe will also be retiring and the appointment of the three new Judges is meant to ensure the highest appellate Court is never affected by lack of quorum.

Charles Etukuri late last year spoke to some of the judges to find out their expectations in the new jobs.

Mike Chibita

 	hibita being swornin Chibita being sworn-in

 

I got a letter from the Speaker of Parliament for a meeting with the Appointments Committee following my nomination to serve as Supreme Court judge. I am looking forward to the interaction with the Appointments Committee of Parliament and pray that they find me worthy of the position. Thereafter, I look forward to serving the people of Uganda through that office.

I am greatly humbled and honoured that His Excellency the President has considered me for this appointment.

I have been in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions office for six years and together with staff of the directorate, we have accomplished a lot. I had gotten attached to them. It is now time of mixed emotions for me.

I am happy and elated because professionally it is a peak of my career. But I am sad that I will be leaving my team that I have been so attached to.

I joined the Attorney General Chambers in 1990 as a pupil state attorney and never dreamt that one day I would be considered for the highest court of the land. I am very thankful to God.

Challenges

The biggest challenge by far was when my staff went on industrial action for two months (November -December 2017). The Government was thinking of how I could fail to prevail over my staff. On the other hand, staff were thinking ‘how could he fail to get us a good deal', yet we had to continue prosecutions with few staff. That was a real challenge.

The other challenge was when Joan Kagezi was shot dead on March 30, 2015. I was very new in office and it was just the second day of the trial. It was a big challenge yet I had to motivate staff for work to continue.

On case backlog:  I am glad to report that it is the first time in 10 years that the number of convicts is greater than the number of remands in Ugandan prisons. It is not just our efforts. This has been through working with Justice, Law and Order Sector partners, including the Police and Prisons. The backlog of cases is going down due to a joint effort and plea bargaining.

His expectation

I expect to learn from the people I will find there. I have two issues I am particularly interested in; harmonization of sentences. We have had a problem of sentences given by High Court reduced at the Court of Appeal, then Supreme Court comes with a different sentence. The courts and prosecutors are a bit confused about the sentences. These need to be harmonised.

The second issue is the one of life imprisonment. How many years is life imprisonment? These are the two areas that need clarity.

Justice Tuhaise Percy   

President Museveni with Justice Percy Tuhaise and  family

I was in Gulu when I received call from the office of the Speaker of Parliament, informing me of the appointment and scheduled meeting with the Appointments Committee.

I am very excited with this new appointment. I started off at the High Court, which was a trial court. So I had to be a trial judge and after eight years, I gained a lot of experience that I was able to use comfortably at the Court of Appeal, which is an appellate Court except when we were hearing Constitutional Cases.

The High Court was also an appellate court because we had appeals coming in from the Magistrates Courts. The Supreme Court is the highest appellate court and I believe the experience I have gained at the Court of Appeal will greatly help me.

Ezekiel Muhanguzi

Muhanguzi says he was at his country home in Kazo, when he got a call from Parliament informing him about the presidential appointment and inviting him for approval session by the appointments Committee".

Challenges

Working as judge at the Court of Appeal was quite challenging.  There was too much work and few resources to handle the workload. But besides that, it was normal work, which I have done for decades.

Expectations

I expect less work because as cases progress from the lower courts, they tend to reduce in number. I expect to have more time available to me to give proper attention to the cases at the Supreme Court.

 

 

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