The judiciary has hailed the services offered by Uganda’s former Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka in his quest for rule of law.
On September 21, 1972, Kiwanuka, the then Chief Justice was dragged from his chambers at the High Court in Kampala by soldiers of the late president Idi Amin and has never been seen again.
On Friday, the judiciary held the inaugural Ben Kiwanuka memorial lecture as a way of honoring his resolve to fight for the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda.
“The small things like invasions of courts by armed men, disobeying court orders and arrest of people released by courts are some of those things against the values and principles that Ben Kiwanuka fought for,” Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said during the function.
On November 16, 2005, armed men dressed in black t-shirts and combat fatigue trousers who later came to be named black mambas raided the High Court premises in Kampala.
On January 10,2017, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga threw out an order by the then Deputy Chief Justice Stephen Kavuma ordering parliament to stop an investigation into the Shs6b oil handshake before labelling it as being stupid.
On April, 10 Sheikh Ismael Kalule, a terror suspect was re-arrested by security operatives at the premises of the International Crimes Division Court in Kololo, only hours after the same court had released him on bail.
According to the Chief Justice, such ‘small’ things and words can easily break the judiciary and bring back memories of the dark days of the Idi Amin era in which Kiwanuka was killed.
“They appear little but they can break the country. It is high time we all reflected on what we say and what we do,”Katureebe noted.
He called for protection of the independence of the judiciary and promotion of the rule of law by everyone.
The Deputy Chief Justice, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo described the late chief justice as a selfless and uncompromising character that fought and jealously guarded the rule of law.
“He was brutally, crudely and fragrantly got out of his chambers and has never been seen again. There is no better gift than making sure the rule of law lives forever,”Dollo said.
The Uganda Law Society president, Simon Peter Kinobe asked government agencies to desist from acting with impunity, a thing he said does not reflect the values that Kiwanuka fought for.
“We should all ensure the rule of law is preserved and thrives,”Kinobe said.
The Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Kahinda Otafiire emphasized the need for preservation and ensuring of the rule of law by everyone concerned.
Former Chief Justice, Wako Wambuzi said Kiwanuka died because of his refusal to sacrifice the rule of law as had been demanded by the then president Idi Amin.
“Currently there are many challenges to rule of law and constitutionalism as envisaged by Ben Kiwanuka but they ought to be addressed,”Wambuzi said.
“There is need for unwavering independence of the judiciary. Intimidation and disrespect of the judiciary should stop.”
Walking Kiwanuka’s journey of no return
On the fateful day, the then Chief Justice who was found in his chambers(office) was grabbed by Amin’s security operatives and led through the back gate of the High Court premises and taken to an unknown destination.
He has never been seen to date.
On Friday, judges, advocates and other members of the legal fraternity used marched from Katureebe’s chambers through the back exit of the High Court premises in a bid to emulate his last journey of no return.