Chief Justice Owiny Dollo Chigamoy has responded to the theatrical act by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja that happened on Monday 21st October 2022.
The Right Honourable Premier stormed the office of His Worship Amon Magezi at Mengo Chief Magistrates’ Court and chaired a televised meeting where she held his decisions on one of the cases to be null and void.
Nalule, a widow with seven children got financial help from Mr. Bazaale amounting to seven million Uganda shillings and she failed to pay him back hence the intervention of court to solve the matter.
She was allegedly convinced to sign a sale agreement of her property which she claims not to have understood the terms.
Bazaale offered to add her three million Uganda shillings so that the property becomes his. Nalule refused this offer because she was not willing to lose her property.
His Worship Amon Magezi ruled in favour of Mr.Bazaale and sentenced Nalule to six months imprisonment also known as civil prison on 18th November 2022.
It should be noted that civil prison is mostly a punishment for one who is unwilling to pay a debt but has the capacity to pay.
– article continues after AD below-
In the scenario before us, the widow had the means of paying by surrendering her property but she was not willing.
Prime Minister Nabbanja after watching news on Television was intrigued and heart wrenched that the widow`s plight is a replica of the many suffering Ugandans whose properties are being taken by having her whole residential property taken because of 10 Million Uganda shillings.
With the attendance of lawyers from the office of Attorney General, the press and His Worship Amon Magezi, she insisted that the judicial officer did not act in good faith, why he didn’t involve the LC1 officials and commanded the judicial officer to give reasons for his ruling.
It should be noted that whoever has a grievance with a court judgment has a right to appeal to courts of higher jurisdiction like the High Court, or seek for review before the same court that handled the matter.
Only parties to a suit can claim to be aggrieved by a ruling and in case a third party is aggrieved, he or she can apply to court to be added as a defendant or plaintiff.
The best decision the premier should have done was to facilitate the appealing of this particular matter, financially helped the widow to pay off the debt.
It should be noted that this is not the first time the executive is interfering with the decisions of the judiciary.
17 years years ago on 16th November 2005, a group of gun men who later came to be known as the Black Mamba raided the High court in Kampala with the mission to re-arrest suspected members of Peoples` Redemption Army, a shadowy rebel outfit after being granted bail by Justice Edmond Sempa Lugayizi.
It is against this background that Chief Justice Owiny Dollo Chigamoy is infuriated with actions of the Premier.
– article continues after AD below-
In a Memo, he has rallied all the judicial officers not to be intimidated and be ready to fight back against intimidations from the likes of Nabbanja.
He vowed to defend judicial officers both in public and private. He has instructed His Worship Amon Magezi to write to him in detail whatever transpired so that he can see the most appropriate way to respond.
The crudeness with which Prime Minister Nabbanja raided court was uncalled for as there were better ways of registering her displeasure with His Worship Amon’s ruling and undermines the independence of the judiciary.
There is an African proverb that when elephants fight, it is the grass to suffer, let’s cross our arms and see how the chief justice amicably intervenes in this saga.
Writing to make it right, Lydia Etii Ajwang is a Lawyer in Private Practice.