Today (Friday June 19) is Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe’s last official working day as
Chief Justice after clocking the constitutional age limit of 70 years.
“I am retiring from Judicial Service as the Chief Justice of Uganda on June 20, 2020,” Katureebe said in a short letter he sent out on Friday.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank you all collectively and individually for the
cooperation and support you have rendered to me, and the Judiciary as an institution
during my tenure in office. It has indeed been a great honour and privilege to work
with you all.
“I have retired and I’m going home. I want people to see that you can retire and go home. I am just winding up for the new person to come in” He told some of his staff in the Chief Justice chambers at the Judiciary headquarters in Kampala, Justice Katureebe.
“I’ll be coming to Kampala as a visitor, and may be to the Supreme Court where I still
have three months to finish my judgments. I also want to complete my book and I
hope I can have the manuscript ready by December.”
He said since the President has not yet appointed his replacement, he would on Monday hand over the office to his deputy, Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, who will serve in acting capacity, pending the appointment of a substantive chief justice.
“The Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) will be acting from Sunday, because I technically leave on Saturday 20th June midnight. After that, I will not be able to sign anything as Chief Justice”.
The Judiciary has organized a small symbolic handover ceremony on Monday (June, 22)
“For me I am very happy with where we have reached – almost everything of mine has clicked” -a visibly contented Katureebe said to a few of his staff on Friday.
He said he feels he has retired satisfied that some achievements have been made, but
he acknowledges that a lot more still needs to be done, particularly in the reduction
of case backlog.
“The ECCMIS (Electronic Court Case Management Information System) is on course,
the construction of the Appellate Courts is on course, the Administration of the
Judiciary Bill, which was passed by Parliament and now assented to by the President
(as of today) – that’s my achievement.”
The law gives the Judiciary financial and administration autonomy. He said terms and conditions of Judicial Officers have improved and now put in law, so it is no longer ex-gratia (paid at will) and that judicial officers now have retirement benefits.
“When I joined the Judiciary (in 2005), judges were getting Shs5 million per month, but they are now getting an average of Shs25 million,” he said.
“There was nothing in the law for the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice when they retire. We have not had a law in place providing for retirement benefits other than the pension and gratuity paid under the Pensions Act. Now we have the law in place providing retirement benefits for all judicial officers,” he said.
Justice Katureebe has served in public service for 36 years of his work life to public;
for eight years as a state attorney, then 13 years as a minister including service
in the Constituent Assembly and Parliament – 21 years in government plus the 15
years in the Judiciary, inclusive of the five years as Chief Justice.
BART KATUREEBE’S BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND SERVICE RECORD
After completing his legal studies in the 1970s, Katureebe worked as a state attorney in the ministry of justice. Kabatsi, who also worked in the same ministry, said Katureebe was very professional.
In 1983, he went into private practice until 1988 when he was appointed deputy minister in charge of regional cooperation. From 1991 to 1992, Katureebe served as deputy minister of industry and technology before he was appointed minister of state for health.
In 1994, Katureebe was elected to the Constituent Assembly (CA) representing Bunyaruguru county. Ben Wacha, a senior lawyer and former CA delegate, remembers Katureebe as an outstanding delegate.
“We were members of the committee on legal affairs and I remember his contributions were so impressive when we were debating the constitution,” Wacha said.
From 1996 to 2001, Katureebe served as minister of justice and constitutional affairs and attorney general. Abdu Katuntu, the shadow attorney general, describes Katureebe as a “very professional man” who was also “the last attorney general to represent government in court.”
Katureebe represented Uganda at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, where DR Congo had accused Uganda of plundering her resources, among other complaints. He also appeared in the Supreme court on behalf of the government to successfully challenge Gen David Tinyefuza’s victory in the Constitutional court.
The lower court had ruled that it was against Tinyefuza’s rights not to be allowed to retire from UPDF.
In 2001, Katureebe controversially resigned his job as attorney general.
After leaving government in 2001, Katureebe, together with Kabatsi, Justice Joseph Mulenga, Elly Karuhanga and others, formed Kampala Associated Advocates, which was later to become one of the leading law firms in Uganda. In 2004, Katureebe was mentioned in Chambers Global, the world’s leading directory of business lawyers.
In 2005, Katureebe was appointed chairman, board of directors, New Vision Printing and Publishing Company Limited. He also served as a director at Standard Chartered bank and National Insurance Corporation.
He was appointed to the Supreme court in 2005 and during his decade-long tenure in the highest court of the land, Katureebe is believed to be one of the judges who modified the development of Uganda’s jurisprudence.