President Yoweri Museveni and the Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo have clashed on the issue of granting bail to persons accused of capital offences pending determination of their cases.
This was at the 4th Annual Memorial Lecture of the former Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka held at the Judiciary Headquarters in Kampala where Museveni was the Chief Guest. It was organised under the theme "Administration of Justice in Uganda through the years".
But addressing the guests at the event, Owiny-Dollo said bail is a constitutional right which is supposed to be either granted or denied upon the discretion of the presiding judicial officer who should also exercise that discretion judiciously.
Owiny-Dollo says a judicial officer cannot wake up from the wrong or good side of the bed and decide whether to grant or deny bail to an accused person because it's a constitutional right the officer has to grant upon considering a number of circumstances for instance, if one will abscond from trial or not among others.
He added however that he has heard President Museveni on a number of occasions having a different view on the right to bail saying that the judicial officers should remember the oath they took to dispense justice without fear or favour and independently.
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But when it was the President's turn to speak, Museveni said that the concept of dispensing justice has to be harmonized, challenging the judicial officers to go and read the Constitutional Commission proceedings where he says the majority of the people of Uganda didn't want bail for capital offenses. But the former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki who headed the Commission left it to the discretion of the judicial officers, which he is opposed to.
According to Museveni who spoke very tough on the matter, granting bail is a provocation which will not be accepted.He gave examples of people who were killed by mob justice one in Arua and another a surveyor in Gomba District, saying that when courts keep giving bail on capital offenses, societies become hopeless and start killing people who are charged with such capital crimes.
Museveni who was accompanied by his wife Janet Museveni also cited to the Banyankore culture saying that if one wrongs you in other ways, you can compensate them and the issue gets settled. But in murder cases, he says there is always vendetta and if one doesn't revenge, there is always fear that the ghost of the deceased person may always come and attack the relatives.
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He also revealed that when they were fighting in the bush as freedom fighters they had their own view of justice. Here, Museveni had to narrate to the Judicial Officers a story of two people including a one he only identified as Zabuloni who had killed two wanainchi in Semuto and were brought before Jim Muhwezi who had legal knowledge for a punishment but he (Muhwezi) then said "It wasn't Zabuloni who killed but it was beer inside him."
According to Museveni, he had to disagree with Muhwezi as the Chairperson of the High Command saying "If Zabuloni made himself a jerrycan of beer, what do we do? We executed them."
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Accordingly, Museveni said that after revenging, although there were many different groups of fighters around Semuto, the majority started believing that it was his group that had the ideology they wanted.
Meanwhile, in relation to the event, Museveni blamed the Mengo Administration for Benedicto Kiwanuka's suffering and subsequent death.
He noted that Mengo wanted federalism but after Kiwanuka told them that it wasn't possible, the Mengo subjects started accusing him of disrespecting the Kabaka of Buganda well knowing the consequences it would cause Kiwanuka.
Museveni who strongly spoke bitterly about Amin and told the audience that he wanted it to be captured that Kiwanuka was a victim of Mengo adding that the powers of the Judiciary by being independent shouldn't take away what the majority people of Uganda understand as justice dispensation.
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He concluded that he will mobilize and solve the issues of bail politically.
The head of State has in the previous events indicated that bail matters will be raised in the National Resistance Movement Parliamentary Caucus for debate to see if it can be scrapped off .
The Kiwanuka memorial lecture has been attended by a few invited guests including the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah, the Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi , former Chief Justices Bart Katureebe and Benjamin Odoki, Judges among others.
Kiwanuka is the former Chief Justice who was kidnapped in 1972 from his High Court Office in Kampala and reportedly murdered by the former President of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada. For now, 49 years later, the nation, including Kiwanuka's family, relatives and friends have never seen his remains.