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Letter to the honorable chief justice

Dear Justice Bart Katureebe,

Greetings! I hope this note finds you well.

On Wednesday, one of your officers, the chief magistrate of Bushenyi, Mr Moses Katorogo, was reportedly interdicted on allegations of soliciting and accepting bribes. I doubt that anyone reading this was in the least surprised.

The Ugandan judiciary and the police force, two of the most important bodies under the justice, law and order sector, top the list of the most corrupt institutions in the country. Your personnel, both judicial officers and support staff, engage in sheer shameless extortion and egregiously defeat the cause of justice. I have been a victim, a subject to which I return in a moment.

Your Lordship, you received overwhelming public support, across the political divide, when the Judicial Service Commission recommended your appointment as chief justice.

The near unanimous message of approval by the Ugandan public and the activism of MP Gerald Karuhanga, who took the matter of your appointment to the Constitutional court, compelled General Museveni to fall through and appoint you chief justice.

The public support was, I suspect, because many thought of you as a distinguished public official capable of cleaning up the mess in the judiciary. Two years later, many Ugandans must be disappointed. I am one of them!

In the lower courts, poor people can’t get justice due to rampant petty bribe-solicitation by secretaries and clerks. In the appellant courts, especially in the Court of Appeal, petty politics is played by especially a former eminent member of the ruling party, your deputy, Mr Steven Kavuma. I suspect you can tell that I am constrained to address him as Justice Kavuma.

The Court of Appeal/Constitutional court has rapidly gained notoriety for obstructing, instead of aiding, justice. The exasperation by the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, against Kavuma’s recent injunction that in practice would have shut down parliament spoke volumes. By referring to his order as ‘stupid,’ Kadaga expressed a sentiment that is undoubtedly shared by many Ugandans.

Your deputy has greatly imperiled the integrity of the judiciary. Yet, while the abuse of judicial authority and obstruction of justice have been on full display, you, as the head of the institution, have been conspicuously silent!

In the High court, registrars and judges collude with shady lawyers to frustrate justice and entrench a culture of injustice. There have been numerous reports of misconduct and abuse of office against your officers, the most recent made against an eminent judge of the High court.

In the minds of many Ugandans who have encountered the travails of our courts, the judiciary is not the temple of justice. And if judicial officers can get away with misconduct and blatant corrupt practices in Kampala, what do you think is the situation in rural areas? I am sure you know, but let me briefly narrate a case that I confronted with bitterness not too long ago.

In late 2015, a friend had a land-dispute case decided against him at the Magistrate’s court in Manafwa district. In her ruling, the magistrate awarded a hefty sum as costs to the winner. How did she determine the costs of the suit to include it in her ruling?

But the most bizarre action was that in just a few hours of the ruling, my friend was promptly arrested: he had to pay the costs right away! Court brokers were on hand to effect the arrest. On his way to prison, he managed to call me. I was in Kampala; so, the following morning I made the long trip to Mbale and then Manafwa to try and help him out of prison.

The only way out, short of paying the awarded costs, I was told by a lawyer in Mbale town, was to initiate the process of appealing the ruling. But why would someone be arrested immediately after a ruling yet he has the right of appeal? How can he appeal while in jail?

Since he was in prison, there was no time to ask questions. Lodging appeal papers and applying for a temporary injunction, a stay of execution, and all the litany documents for temporary relief took a full week and cost some good money.

My most horrifying experience was inside the corridors and offices of the High court in Mbale. There, I experienced firsthand the shameless display of greed and callous exercise of arrogance.

To carry documents from one office to another for signature, I was told I had to pay. If I didn’t, it meant at least an additional day in jail for my friend.

To collect the case file in the Magistrate’s court in Manafwa and take it to Mbale, I had to pay. To deliver the court order to prison so my friend gets out of illegal detention, I had to pay. I was appalled and outraged, yet totally helpless.

My Lord, the chief justice, the scale of graft and misconduct in our courts defies characterization. If you can have your way, you must change some rules so your office and that of the Inspectorate of Courts together with the Judicial Service Commission can arrest the situation.


The author teaches  political science at Northwestern University/Evanston, Chicago-USA.


+5 #1 yokonani 2017-02-17 10:15
When the situation started getting out of hand in every aspect of life in this our beloved country, we all looked on thinking it was not our business.

I want to put all Ugandans on notice that this crisis will catch up with all of us.

I pray that one day we shall all walk in shame unable to raise our heads above our shoulders. I hope a critical mass of patriots and rational thinkers will arise to change things around.
May God save Uganda
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-1 #2 edo 2017-02-17 10:39
but Moses. why attack the judiciary only?

these things happen in every institution and they are not new. even ura unra...they are everywhere
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+4 #3 Kabinda 2017-02-18 01:49
As appalling as it is,it is the Uganda reality.

Of course, Katureebe cannot do an iota of a thing about this because he is a hostage of a failed regime.

We are talking of an institutional collapse here.It is like a leaking rusted rotten pipe.

The best is to discard it. Sadly the cause of the problem is the unfortunate takeover of all arms of government by one individual for political reasons.

Uganda courts are politicized in every sense of the word. How many times have you heard Museveni tell judges how he would rather they do their jobs and do you not see who now flock the court of appeal?

Cadres of course. Combined with the poor and often late remuneration,the justice system is a home of disillusionment, frustration, and desperation.

Moses describes the manifestations or symptoms of a much larger problem that Katureebe cannot control unless he(Katureebe) wants to get consumed in the flame he starts.

The answer is in the hands of every Ugandan who wants a better country.This regime is over due.
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+2 #4 Coleman 2017-02-19 00:26
Thank you Moses. This letter is a true representation of a patriotic Ugandan.

However the man, whom you address here as "My Lord, the chief justice" and ask to address the gross "misconduct in our courts" himself fall from grace, the day he betrayed Ugandans when sold his soul to the dictatorship when he chose to personally get involved in the miscarriage of justice in the appeal against the gross rigging of 2016elections; losing a golden opportunity in his professional life and in history of our Country to save the nation.

Unfortunately Katureebe was found wanting....!!!
Now he has neither the means nor the moral authority to deal with the very evil he is part of.

The best that Baart Katurebe can do to save his face is to come out and apologise to the Ugandans that he betrayed and step down from the office which deserves a person of better integrity otherwise he himself should and must one day be tried for "treason"....!!
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+1 #5 Voda 2017-02-20 11:11
The NRM government is an architecture of institutional decay from which it greatly benefit.

If you the Chief Justice and your deputy is Steven Kavuma then you have been comprised. A man who even want to change his date of birth as if he produced himself!!

This didnt happen by mistake but it was deliberately planned. I personally feel sorry for the CJ that his deputy is an enemy of justice.

One of the ways, we can reform the temple of justice is by creating an independent judicial service commission that can scrutinise those who want to be judges through public vetting.

Otherwise the Judiciary will remain an extension of the NRM.
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+1 #6 Ugthinker 2017-02-21 01:13
We were all duped to believe that Katurebe is any different!

With all that's going on in the judiciary for a longtime by the way, with the insiders knowledge Katurebe had about it, if he was of any substance he would either have declined the job or go in, determined to overhaul the judiciary.

He hasn't done either of the above, in my books he just another one.

Whether Ugandans like it or not the only way out is UNITY against all forms of injustice dispensed by Museveni and his cronies. Dr Besigye has time and again told us but many of us have fronted all sorts of weird reasons! These guys are out to finish off our country!
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+1 #7 KK Hald 2017-02-21 13:00
Justice Bart Katureebe, ha ha ha

If you are talking about Bart Katureebe, the founder and "former" owner of Kampala Associated Advocates, I mean this law firm which has been used to roband plunder Uganda and Ugandans in dubious case with heavy then life cost.

The latest, I think being that of the London Oil case.

I am sorry, I am one of those who clearly posted here and told Ugandans who were routing for his appointment, that they will be very disappoited and this is just the begaining

Khisa Moses just tighten the belt
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