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Parliament approves Owiny-Dollo, Buteera appointment



Parliament has today approved the appointment of chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and his deputy Richard Buteera.

The two appeared before the parliamentary Appointments committee chaired by the speaker Rebecca Kadaga in which they were asked questions and were scored at the same time.

An MP who attended the commission meeting said that the major issue that was raised was how the two arms of government, legislature and the judiciary can work together with the aim of reducing the prevailing friction.

The two have had a longstanding battle where they have failed to agree on several issues such as on the probe into the Shs 6 billion oil cash bonanza after justice Steven Kavuma issued an order stopping an inquiry into the matter. Kadaga called the order “stupid”. Of recent, Kadaga also challenged court for “stopping parliament from doing its work” when court ruled that the Shs 10 billion cash payouts to MPs for COVID-19 intervention was irregular.

Kadaga, according to sources who attended the meeting, allowed two MPs Moses Balyeku and Atkins Katusabe to ask questions on her behalf and score the judges. The MPs reportedly scored the two justices who were interviewed separately on their experience, competence, and achievements among others. The MPs who attended the committee say both nominees excelled and were instantly approved.

“They all deserve it as they were very experienced and competent. The only issue that came up was the one on how the two arms of government can work together,” the source said.

When interviewed, the two justices were all confident that they would make it saying the engagement with the committee was fruitful. They committed to fighting corruption in the judiciary and handling the matter of case backlog.

According to Owiny-Dollo, he hopes to get rid of the rampant corruption in the judiciary but asked that a joint effort be put to stop the vice, saying that the judges would not be bribed or corrupted if the public itself wasn’t corrupt.

On the independence of the judiciary, Owiny-Dollo says that he has personally remained very independent and has severally ruled in favour of the opposition and against the government. He says that those who think the independence of the judiciary is about making a decision against the government are wrong.  

“We have made so many decisions and the powers that be are all over the place complaining how could we decide like this. If we were receiving orders from above, we would not be having those decisions. The Constitutional court which I have been handling has issued certain decisions which nobody under the control of another can ever make.” Owiny-Dollo said. 

“As a High court judge in Masaka, I am the one who made Mayanja Mbabali leave the ministerial post. Isn’t that a government position? I am the same person who made a lady from Luweero a member of parliament; to retain her seat, a member of the opposition. So for those who think the independence of judiciary can only be proved by making a decision against the government are wrong.” he added.  

On the case backlog, Owiny-Dollo said that he told the appointments committee that they need a good number of judges if the issues of backlogs are to change. He says that if the issues of more judges are not addressed, then even the next chief justice will still be asked the same after him.

Buteera on his part said that delayed trials frustrate the public and that is what he hopes to achieve. He says the acute shortage in the number of judges should be handled. On corruption, he says it is giving a bad image to the judiciary, and the corrupt judiciary officers should be made to answer for them.

“They [MPs] wanted information from me and I gave them the information they wanted. They asked questions which in my view and observation, I answered satisfactorily. I have been in the court system for so long, there are programs that will improve the judiciary that we think have to work on and see that there are changes in the judiciary and the most important one is clearance of the backlog seeing that the cases do not stay so long in the court system. Delayed trials frustrate the public,” said Buteera. 

Parliament will now forward these names to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

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