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Uganda’s judiciary weakened by Museveni appointments- Besigye tells African judges gathering
Published on 11-11-2016 - at 01:47' by Daily Monitor

The former FDC presidential candidate made the remarks while addressing the 2016 annual Jurists Conference about Democracy in Africa which was held in Durban, South Africa.

KAMPALA. Opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye yesterday told an international audience that President Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement party has taken over control of key institutions in the country in its bid to hold on to power.
The former FDC presidential candidate made the remarks while addressing the 2016 annual Jurists Conference about Democracy in Africa which was held in Durban, South Africa.

The aim of the three-day conference, organisers say, is to “interrogate recent developments in relation to the rise of irresponsible leadership around the continent, the deficiency of political will for reform, as well as socio-economic implications for the decline in democracy for the African citizen”.

Dr Besigye delivered a narrative about Uganda themed “Uganda’s journey to attain (total) democracy”. He cited institutions and groups in the country like the church, police and “legal minds” which he said have been “co-opted” to “control the thought process” and “influence” people.

“The Judiciary has now been heavily weakened through appointments. We now have a category of people who they call cadre judges. These are judges who will implement whatever they are told to do,” he said.

But not all is lost, he suggested. Citing his ability to get out of prison, despite the wish of elements of the State to keep him there, Dr Besigye, paid tribute to “a resilient judiciary” with some officials who have taken “heroic stands to resist”.

In July, the government opposed the release of Dr Besigye from Luzira prison where he had been locked up nearly two months on allegations of having committed treason when he swore himself in as President following the disputed February general election which he insists he won. The High Court presided over by Justice Wilson Musene Masalu nevertheless granted him bail.

In 2011, former Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki, complained about the interference by “African governments on the independence of the Judiciary”.

Justice Odoki who was speaking at the annual Southern African Chief Justices Forum cited the March 2007 attack by Ugandan security forces on the High Court in Kampala in what came to be famously known as the “Black mamba attack”. Mr Odoki also noted the State’s refusal to obey and enforce decisions of courts among other things, as examples.

Dr Besigye appealed to the organisation to recognise judicial officers “who have stood courageously in these processes and maintained justice”.

The former presidential candidate is attending the conference with former South African Constitutional Court judges, Albie Sachs and Dali Mpofu; Zimbabwean opposition leader, Tendai Biti; Judge Jody Kollapen of the High Court of South Africa, and more than 30 judges, legislators, lawyers, scholars, policy experts and human rights activists.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director Uganda Media Centre, said: “The elections have just been completed in the US, the biggest democracy and you know that Donald Trump said he will staff the courts with conservative judges. There is no problem [with judges being cadres] as long as they interpret the laws correctly. The laws are bound to be interpreted according to the ideological leaning of the judge.”

Mr Opondo added that courts can never be neutral because the law itself is not neutral.

Dr Besigye is expected to return to the country today, ahead of a November 14 court date in Kabalewhere he is battling charges of “inciting violence” together with other political leaders and activists like Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa, and Ms Ingrid Turinawe, the Forum for Democratic Change chief mobiliser.

On November 16, Dr Besigye is expected to appear before the High Court in Kampala as a requirement for his bail and on the same day, he will also appear before Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court for mention of the treason matter.

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Dr Kizza Besigye addressing the 2016 annual Jurists Conference about Democracy in Africa which was held in Durban, South Africa on Thursday.

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