Gloves are off. The battle of wits begins in the Constitutional Court of Uganda. It is Justice Esther Kisaakye Kitimbo against six others as she seeks orders to stop them from blocking her salary and allowances, among other key issues.
The petition was filed before the Constitutional Court of Uganda (Court of Appeal) in Kampala through Justice Kisaakye’s lawyers of KBW Advocates, a law firm located on Plot 10 Clement Hill Road.
Petitioner Justice Dr Esther Kisaakye Kitimbo has listed six respondents, including Chief Justice and head the judicial arm of government Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Judiciary of Uganda Dr Pius Bigirimana, Judiciary Commissioner of Human Resources Apophia Tumwine, Chief Registrar of Courts of Judicature of Uganda Sarah Langa Siu, the Judicial Service Commission and Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
In her petition, Kisaakye complains that her woes with the Chief Justice, PS Bigirimana and other respondents started in March 2021, stemming from her position in the Presidential Election Petition case filed by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine against President Yoweri Museveni.
That her dissenting view made the respondents to act in ways that flout key constitutional provisions. She lists CJ Owiny-Dollo’s decision to ‘confiscate’ her file and to block from delivering her dissenting judgement; disseminating ‘false’ statements against her through the Judiciary Public Relations Office and the Principal Communications Officer, blocking her salary and allowances, denial of financial support to go for eye surgery and treatment in the US, withdrawal of her research assistant and bodyguards and the decision not to assign her any work among others.
In particular, she pins PS Bigirimana for ensuring that no funds are released for her treatment and purchase of reading glasses abroad even when the Medical Board had approved the same and the Judiciary committed itself to offering resources. She wondered why other Supreme Court justices have previously had no trouble accessing the Judiciary’s resources for treatment abroad yet she was denied the same privilege.
Justice Kisaakye also complained that her dissenting view in the 2021 presidential petition had prompted CJ Owiny-Dollo to unconstitutionally fire her as the Administrative Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing her with a junior judge of the apex court even when “the position of the Administrator of the Supreme Court is a preserve for the most senior member of the supreme court after the Chief Justice.”
She also complained about the inquiries against her as undertaken by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which is the fifth respondent on the directives issued by CJ Owiny-Dollo on April 06, 2021.
It further shows that the Judicial Service Commission started secretive inquiries against Kisaakye and solicited a complaint from Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo. She said the inquiries were prompted by her decision to exercise her judicial independence.
The senior Supreme Court judge also castigated the JSC for refusing to release its report from ‘secretive investigations disguised as a general inquiry” until November 2021 when the fifth respondent gave her only 14 days within which to file her response.
Kisaakye has also told the Constitutional Court that when she duly completed her leave and resumed her duties on June 2022 Owiny-Dollo and Bigirimana “turned around and accused” her “of having been away from the office without official leave since September 2021.”
Her prayers include: orders for CJ Owiny-Dollo to return her files and to grant her a chance to deliver her dissenting judgement in the Bobi Wine presidential petition; retraction of the March 19 Judiciary Press Statement through widely published notices in local and global media on top of an apology in the same media, and the removal of the same from the judiciary website. The respondents have been given seven days within which to file their defences, according to summons issued by the Constitutional Court Registrar.
You can read the profile of Justice Esther Kisaakye, the most experienced judge of Uganda’s current Supreme Court Here.
HOW WE GOT HERE
A few weeks ago, it emerged that Pius Bigirimana had blocked Justice Kisaakye’s salary over her absence from office without leave. (Read Story Here).
The reasons Bigirimana gave for blocking Justice Kisaakye’s salary are detailed Here.
Justice Kisaakye responded with anger, telling Bigirimana that she understands the law better than Him. (Read Story Here).
Even opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye and Bobi Wine weighed in the drama between Kisaakye and Bigirimana, calling it the kicks of a dying judiciary horse and adding that Kisaakye was being punished for her pro-Bobi Wine judgement. (Read Stories Here and There).