I was offered fat bribes for age limit petition- Deputy CJ Owiny-Dollo

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Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo

The independence of the judiciary remains a contested issue in a country where the Executive has overbearing powers over the other organs of the State.

Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo appeared on NTV “On the Spot” programme Thursday night to explain whether Ugandan judges have been under the capture of the political doctrine question.

“21st September will always be a day to remember in the judiciary because it is when Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka was dragged from court, taken away never to be seen again. He is certainly dead,” Dollo started off.

“We can never slide back to what happened on the 21st of September 1992 and that has since been the darkest hour in our profession.”

He said even when the head of judiciary was dragged out in broad daylight, judiciary has not succumbed and so should journalists because they have been beaten, they are being beaten and they will still be beaten.

“I am not the first person to be a judge who was a politician. CJ Benedicto was not only a politician but also head of a political party and so is Justice Mulenga and Kanyeihamba.”

Owiny-Dollo says he was in Government and is now a member of the judiciary hence has seen it all.

He said belonging to a political party doesn’t mean one is not independent.

“There are many things that happen that you might know about. The thing of going on the streets is about addressing the gallery but for us, we address real issues.”

He said the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga writing to the President and demanding the punishment of SFC soldiers for brutalising people in Arua was right.

“The Judiciary has done that, we have held meetings with the State, Prime Minister and the President but the problem is thinking that every time we engage, it must come out.”

“In my belief, the Ugandan society is corrupt. If Ugandans stood firm and said no, I am not giving a judicial officer money then go and report, there would be this high levels of corruption.”

He said before the wrongdoers are brought to court, judges don’t have much they can do.

“Even the media then has a louder voice than us. I don’t have the statistics of case backlog but the question we should be asking is why we have these high levels of the case backlog.

Dollo said he has not seen the report that was allegedly written by Justice Kanyeihamba about corrupt judges but maybe he wrote it before Dollo took over office.

“For every decision I make, there will be a happy and unhappy side so we can’t work towards pleasing people when handling cases.”

He added: “I am not against investigations but If you are going to establish a commission of inquiry based on every allegation and talk, then there will be a commission of inquiry in every department and I am not sure there are resources to do all that.”

He said while handling the Mbale age limit petition, attempts were made to compromise him but he declined.

“And this is big money we are talking about, big, big money. Then an attempt was made to frame me from my office but it also failed.”

He went on: “We were ready to treat some of these attempts as an assault but those people then became wise and they didn’t do it. If people can dare to do that to the Deputy CJ, what about a magistrate in Soroti.”

Dollo said while the powers to appoint people into the judiciary are entirely in the hands of the President, the process that leads to these appointments is equally elaborate.

“We must remember the memory of Benedicto Kiwanuka annually and it’s not just about him. It’s about the rule of law which will continue to triumph over evil.”

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