Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago has claimed that the ghost that occasioned the eternal disappearance of Justice Benedicto Mugumba Kiwanuka is still haunting the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo’s “swivelling” chair.
Kiwanuka was the first Ugandan Chief Justice. He was kidnaped and later allegedly assassinated by former president Idi Amin in 1972.
Lukwago made the remarks a day after Owiny-Dollo directed the presiding judges in the cases involving the two jailed MPs Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana to begin the trial or dismiss it if the prosecution fails to produce evidence.
While launching the New Law Year in Kampala on Friday, Owiny-Dollo confirmed that the trial of the two legislators will commence this year and will be speedy, noting that by now, State representatives must have gathered enough evidence to incriminate the legislators, and failure to have such evidence will close the case.
“I will ask the trial Judge not to entertain any nonsense during the trial. If the State is not ready, we shall dismiss the case. You (the State) are the one who brought the accused persons to court, you brought allegations on them, the state has the capacity to bring all witnesses,” he said.
Lukwago said it has been long overdue for the Chief Justice to give such a directive regarding the expeditious trial of the jailed legislators.
Although, Lukwago welcomed the directive by the Chief Justice, he said he would have been more appreciative if Owiny-Dollo had pronounced himself on the brutal re-arrest of legislators after they had been released on a cash bail of Shs 20 million each, which has never been refunded by the Judiciary.
“He should have also come out strongly on the nauseating melodrama surrounding the numerous bail applications brought before court by the legislators since their re-arrest and the blatant refusal of the state to allow the ailing MPs access specialised medical treatment from better facilities,” Lukwago said in a statement.
He explained that Ssewanyana’s health condition is deteriorating each and his lawyers and other concerned people have all been barred from accessing him at Kigo where is languishing.
Lukwago said Chief Justice ought to have equally made a proclamation on the continued trial of civilians, especially National Unity Platform (NUP) members, before the General Court Martial which he said is in total disregard of the Constitutional Court.
He said that Court Martial is not clothed with jurisdiction to handle such matters.
“He should have concluded his speech with a stern caution to all security agencies and militias against the practice of defying habeas corpus orders incessantly issued for production before courts of competent record of political prisoners kidnapped and incarcerated incommunicado beyond 48 hours,” he said.
In most cases, Lukwago said most of these people are kept in ungazetted detention centers.
The two legislators Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya have been on remand for over a year now on terrorism charges as well as counts of murder in relation to killings in the greater Masaka sub-region.
The two MPs whose hearing of a bail application failed to kick off in January 2023 are expected to appear before the court on February 13 and 14, 2023 for hearing of the said application.
The hearing of the application failed because the prosecution led by Richard Birivumbuka informed the court that they were not ready to proceed and asked for another date.
The embattled MPs were arrested on September 7, 2021 alongside seven others in connection with the machete killings in Lwengo and Masaka districts.
They were later granted bail on 21 September, but the two MPs were re-arrested from the outskirts of Kigo prisons, and fresh murder charges were preferred against them.