Uganda Law Society Seeks Clarity on Presidential Intervention in Judiciary Affairs

museveni to unveil judiciary twin tower on february 9
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President Museveni expressed his commitment to safeguarding the independence of the Judiciary, responding to concerns raised by the Uganda Law Society (ULS). The High Court deferred its decision on allowing an extraordinary general meeting initiated by the ULS to address the President’s alleged interference. At the annual judges’ conference, President Museveni emphasized the importance of judicial autonomy, echoing remarks by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo on the Judiciary’s independence.

Justice Minister Norbert Mao acknowledged concerns over leaked correspondence between President Museveni and the Chief Justice regarding the attachment and sale of Muslim properties. He praised the Chief Justice’s impartial guidance to lower-level magistrates, highlighting a case involving a presidential candidate’s arrest during the previous election cycle. Meanwhile, some lawyers petitioned the ULS to convene a meeting to discuss perceived threats to judicial independence.

The core issue revolves around President Museveni’s directive to review an order concerning the attachment and sale of Muslim-owned properties, including the national mosque in Old Kampala. The President expressed dismay over the inclusion of religious properties in such proceedings, urging the Chief Justice to address the matter. However, the legality of the ULS meeting was challenged in court by lawyer Brian Kirima, who argued it exceeded the society’s mandate.

The outcome of the legal challenge remains pending, leaving uncertainty over whether the extraordinary general meeting will proceed. Concerns persist among lawyers regarding the ULS’s response to perceived attacks on judicial independence. They urge the society to assert its role in defending the Judiciary against executive overreach.

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Constitutional provisions prohibit interference with judicial functions, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the Judiciary’s autonomy. Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo noted improvements in the Judiciary’s budget but stressed the need for further funding to enhance its operations. The ongoing judges’ conference focuses on a people-centered approach to justice, attended by notable figures including Speaker of Parliament Anita Among.

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