By Ivan Okuda:
Justice Steven Kavuma is set to bounce back at the Supreme Court.
Justice Kavuma was set to retire as Deputy Chief Justice at the end of September 2017 after clocking the 70-year retirement age for Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judges.
However, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Gen Kahinda Otafire has written to the Judicial Service Commission advising it to retain the judge o contract at the Supreme Court for an unspecified period.
In an interview with Daily Monitor, Otafire confirmed he authored the letter giving Justice Kavuma a lease of life as a judicial officer at the Supreme Court, but threatened to jail our reporter for reporting on a sensitive matter which has been kept a top secret.
Mr. Otafire said, “Where did you get that letter? Do you even know what that letter means? It is stamped ‘Secret’ so you are not supposed to read or talk about it anywhere. I am warning you! You will go to jail! Have you heard of the secrets act? Go ahead and write about it, you will go to jail. I have warned you.”
Mr Otafire does not specify why his ministry is vouching for the judge whose tenure was marked by rulings criticized by civil society and the opposition as leaning towards protecting the interests of the ruling National Resistance Movement party and in deviance with the basic tenets of natural justice.
One such decision was an injunction the judge issued barring parliament from debating the dust raising ‘presidential handshake’, a moniker used to describe cash rewards in the excess of shs6 billion dished out to government officials after Uganda successfully battled a multimillion dollar case in London against oil giant Tullow.
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga called Justice Kavuma’s order ‘stupid’ and protested to the president and Chief Justice against what she called an assault on the independence of parliament.
Four time presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye too petitioned the Judicial Service Commission while incarcerated at Luzira prison after the 2016 general elections demanding that Mr. Kavuma, a former junior defence minister, be investigated for acting outside the ambit of decorum expected of judicial officers and perverting the course of justice for President Museveni’s opponents.
The Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission Dr. Rose Nassali Lukwago said yesterday, “I wasn’t copied in that letter. Have you seen that I was copied in? So I cannot comment about it.”
A source in the JSC, the body charged under article 147 of the constitution with reviewing and making recommendations on the terms and conditions of service of judges and other judicial officers told Daily Monitor that there was meant to be a meeting that didn’t happen last week in which Mr. Kavuma’s fate was to be discussed. That meeting, which will deliberate on Otafire’s letter and thresh out modalities of the judge’s transition to the Supreme Court after a contentious tenure as president of the constitutional court and court of appeal, is likely to happen this week.