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Who is Justice Bart Katureebe?

Bart Magunda Katureebe is the new chief justice designate

Born 64 years ago in the western district of Rubirizi, formerly Bushenyi, and married, with six children, the new chief justice is the son of Yowana Magunda and Virginia Ngoni of Rugazi village, Bunyaruguru county.

He attended Namilyango College and Makerere University, where he obtained a bachelor of laws degree. According to Peter Kabatsi, a senior lawyer who has known Bart Magunda Katureebe for more than four decades, he was a knowledgeable student.

“I remember him as a very good student and someone who was reliable as a friend,” Kabatsi, who was a classmate of the new CJ at law school, told The Observer on Thursday.

After completing his legal studies in the 1970s, Katureebe worked as a state attorney in the ministry of justice. Kabatsi, who also worked in the same ministry, said Katureebe was very professional.

In 1983, he went into private practice until 1988 when he was appointed deputy minister in charge of regional cooperation. From 1991 to 1992, Katureebe served as deputy minister of industry and technology before he was appointed minister of state for health.

In 1994, Katureebe was elected to the Constituent Assembly (CA) representing Bunyaruguru county. Ben Wacha, a senior lawyer and former CA delegate, remembers Katureebe as an outstanding delegate.

“We were members of the committee on legal affairs and I remember his contributions were so impressive when we were debating the constitution,” Wacha said.

From 1996 to 2001, Katureebe served as minister of justice and constitutional affairs and attorney general. Abdu Katuntu, the shadow attorney general, describes Katureebe as a “very professional man” who was also “the last attorney general to represent government in court.”

Katureebe represented Uganda at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, where DR Congo had accused Uganda of plundering her resources, among other complaints. He also appeared in the Supreme court on behalf of the government to successfully challenge Gen David Tinyefuza’s victory in the Constitutional court.

The lower court had ruled that it was against Tinyefuza’s rights not to be allowed to retire from UPDF. In 2001, Katureebe controversially resigned his job as attorney general. In an interview with The Independent magazine last year, Katureebe said: “Having found myself in politics, it put me in the limelight, but it also gave me the opportunity to serve my country.”

Wacha, who served with Katureebe in politics, said the new CJ is a very principled man.

“He was very pragmatic, balanced and [a] stickler [for] the law,” Wacha said.

After leaving government in 2001, Katureebe, together with Kabatsi, Justice Joseph Mulenga, Elly Karuhanga and others, formed Kampala Associated Advocates, which was later to become one of the leading law firms in Uganda. In 2004, the incoming chief justice was mentioned in Chambers Global, the world’s leading directory of business lawyers.

In 2005, Katureebe was appointed chairman, board of directors, New Vision Printing and Publishing Company Limited. He also served as a director at Standard Chartered bank and National Insurance Corporation. He was appointed to the Supreme court in 2005 and during his decade-long tenure in the highest court of the land, Katureebe is one of the judges that modified the development of Uganda’s jurisprudence.

Last year, he threw lawyers out of the Supreme court. The lawyers were attempting to settle a Shs 36bn deal involving Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) land and businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba in a way that the judge found fraudulent.

“He is an all-rounder of the law, a very progressive judge in his interpretation of the law and we expect that the young judges will learn from his experience,” said Prof Fredrick Ssempebwa, one of the longest-serving lawyers and a member of the judicial service commission, which nominated him.

Katureebe is considered to be an impartial judge who is not a hardliner. In 2006, he agreed with other members of the Supreme court panel that upheld the outcome of that year’s presidential election.

Kabatsi said of him: “He is a very good choice and we hope that he can take the judiciary to another level.”

skakaire@observer.ug

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