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‘Stupid’ Court Order Memories: Is DCJ Alfonse Owiny Dollo Afraid of Summoning Speaker Rebecca Kadaga?

Why Alfonse Owiny Dollo's Constitutional Court Declined to Summon Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

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The age limit petition hearing in the eastern Uganda town of Mbale enters its fourth consecutive day today, but Rebecca Kadaga will not appear nor will deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo summon the speaker of parliament – the official who presided over the matter under probe.

And as SAMUEL KAMUGISHA now writes, Kadaga’s previous hostile attacks against the judiciary and her seniority could have made Owiny Dollo advise himself against issuing any order summoning the speaker of parliament.  

(L) Deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo
(L) Deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo

Alfonse Owiny Dollo is heading a five-judge bench that will decide on whether parliament’s decision to remove the presidential age limit should be reversed or upheld.

Other judges are: Justices Remmy Kasule, Kenneth Kakuru, Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborin Barishaki.

Petitioners  Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, Karuhanga Kafureka, the Uganda Law Society, Prosper Busingye, and Jonathan Abaime had made five different petitions.

But these have now been consolidated into one petition.

Petitioner Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, and Erias Lukwago, the lawyer for six opposition MPs Kadaga had suspended in the heat of last year’s age limit debate, wanted Kadaga and other officials to appear in court.

Mabirizi and Lukwago argued that Kadaga should be held accountable for using her office as speaker of parliament to preside over the age limit proceedings.  .

But deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana poked holes into the pleas of both Lukwago and Mabirizi.

“Apart from asking that the officials be summoned, he [Lukwago] did not indicate the nature of evidence against them,” argued Rukutana.

“You don’t just say that you want so and so in court, you have to demonstrate that with credible evidence. The application to have the Speaker summoned is misconceived and I pray that it’s disregarded.”

Consequently, court summoned Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen David Muhoozi, Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, and secretary to cabinet John Mitala.

Court also summoned Kampala Metropolitan Police commandant Frank Mwesigwa, police director of operations Asuman Mugenyi.

Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige, Parliament’s Sergeant at Arms Ahmed Kagoye and Jinja West MP Moses Balyeku.

“The registrar of this court is hereby directed to issue summons to the said persons to appear in this court on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at 9:30am for cross-examination,” court instructed.

But Owiny-Dollo and the bench of the Constitutional Court declined to summon Kadaga.

WHY ALFONSE OWINY DOLLO’S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECLINED TO SUMMON KADAGA

Kadaga had not sworn an affidavit on any of the consolidated petitions, argued the judges.

 “We decline to grant the order calling for the Speaker,” the bench ruled.

However, the justices could not readily justify why they had declined to summon Kadaga, besides her not having sworn an affidavit.

But they seemed to have their reasons.

“The details of our reasons shall be in our final judgment,” the bench promised.

Lawyer Erias Lukwago suspects the court’s refusal to summon Kadaga is telling of the loss of confidence in the ‘temple of justice’.

“We wanted the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in the dock but that didn’t happen,” said Lukwago.

“I believe there is a problem with this court. It has suffered a crisis of confidence.”

DID KADAGA’S STUPID ORDER COMMENT SCARE ALFONSE OWINY DOLLO?

(R) deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo
(R) deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo

Age Limit Petition Hearing: Issues that Will Determine whether to Uphold or Reverse Age Limit Removal

Since May 2011, Kadaga has presided over the legislative arm of government. And her relationship with the judiciary has been a cat-and-mouse engagement.

In January 2017, Kadaga termed then deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma’s order blocking Parliament or any individual from inquiring into the Shs 6bn oil cash bonanza as “stupid”.

“I cannot accept a situation where a court dictates on how we shall speak in this House, on how we shall write the order paper… that is unacceptable,” Kadaga had ruled.

“So, honorable members, I want to direct the Attorney General to move to court immediately and get this ‘stupid’ court order vacated.”

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe had written to Kadaga expressing the judiciary’s disappointment with her calling of a court order ‘stupid’.

“It’s important to appreciate that individual judicial officers, or a panel of judges may make decisions that may aggrieve a party,” Katureebe had written to Kadaga.

“The constitutional way to proceed is to appeal such decisions to a higher court for review.”

Katureebe had also added: “I want to assure you that the Judiciary will never connive with or gag Parliament.

“In the same vein, I must emphasise the need for mutual respect between the various arms of government…”

KADAGA FROWNS AT COURT SUMMONS OVER AGE LIMIT PROCEEDINGS

But Kadaga seemed disinterested in respecting the judiciary – especially court orders.

Twice, she refused to personally appear in court.

Kadaga also ignored a court order halting age limit proceedings so she could attend court after the MPs she had suspended ran to “the temple of justice“.

In January, Kadaga told the judiciary not to teach her how to do her work.

She was speaking during the opening of the New Law Year at the Kampala High Court.

Katureebe was in attendance.

And Kadaga directly hit at a court that had instructed her to halt age limit proceedings.

“I have a problem with being directed how to carry out the responsibilites of a speaker,” Kadaga had said.

“[I hate] a situation where a court directs a speaker in session to close parliament and come to attend court; I find that incredible.”

Owiny Dollo is Kavuma’s successor. And he is aware of Kadaga’s frowning at the judiciary.

He must be aware that there is no point in summoning someone who will not honour a court order.

Kadaga has defied courts – and there seems to be nothing the courts can do about it.

But why does Kadaga continue to defy the courts.

Kadaga has the backing of Uganda’s three-decade president Yoweri Museveni – thanks to her role in presiding over the pushing of laws favorable to the regime, and her being a ruling NRM party cadre.

Besides that, Uganda’s order of precedence places the judiciary below the executive and the legislature, in that order.

That makes speaker Kadaga senior to chief justice Katureebe. It also makes deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah senior to deputy chief Justice Owiny Dollo.

As a matter of fact, Kadaga is number three on the order of precedence – only inferior to Museveni and Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, his deputy.

The order of precedence alone is enough to humble anyone in the judiciary – including the chief justice himself – when dealing with Kadaga. Otherwise, she will dismiss a court order and get away with it.

Kadaga during the age limit proceedings.
Kadaga during the age limit proceedings.

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