THE UGANDA LAW SOCIETY
ANNUAL RULE OF LAW DAY
Assessing the Progress of the
Rule of Law in Uganda 50 Years
Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala
Organized by Uganda Law Society (ULS)
Supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung &
Justice, Law & Order Sector
A Synthesized Report of the Proceedings
“The Judiciary is doubtless the pre-eminent player in any discussion of the Rule of Law. It is
she who is the midwife to the birth of the Rule of Law. It is she who is the diligent nurse that
feeds the baby with the milk of nurturing. And it is she is the trustworthy steward, the chief
custodian, entrusted with the authority and privilege to shepherd the population and the
state in matters touching on the Rule of Law.”
Hon. Justice James Ogoola; Chairperson, Judicial Service Commission
As part of the activities to mark Uganda’s fifty years of independent nationhood and also
the customary commemoration of the annual rule of law day that was inaugurated by
the Uganda Law Society, the legal fraternity together with their partners Konrad
Adenauer Stiftung and Justice, Law and Order Sector found it pragmatic to reflect and
take stock of the developments of the rule of law over the past 50 years. Organized
under the theme “The Rule of Law in Uganda: 50 years after Independence” on
October, 2012 at the Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. The event sought to
provide an opportunity for candid discussion of the past, present and proffer options for
the future with regard to the Rule of Law in Uganda. The symposium was attended by
over 300 participants from across the country from both state and non-state fields of the
The opening was presided over by Mr. James Mukasa Ssebugenyi the President of
Uganda Law Society and Dr. Angelika Klein - the Resident Representative of Konrad
Adenauer Stiftung in Uganda. The keynote address at the symposium was delivered by
Hon. Justice James Ogoola, the Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission and was
complemented by eminent panelists: Mr. Peter Mulira, Dr. Miria Matembe, and Mr.
Moses Byaruhanga, followed by a plenary. The presentations and plenary were
unanimous that the legal fraternity as a part of the intelligentsia in Uganda needs to play
a pivotal role in entrenching the rule of law in Uganda as a pathway to economic, social,
and political transformation of the country.
ULS Members at the 5th Annual Rule of Law Day Event
“Just imagine for one moment where Uganda would be and the levels of development we
would reach if we just “do” the rule of law, “think” the rule of law, “feel” the rule of law,”
James Mukasa Ssebugenyi, President Uganda Law Society
Having welcomed participants to the event, the President of ULS expressed his gratitude
to Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Justice, Law & Order Sector for their technical and
financial support towards the event. In his brief opening remarks, he indicated that the
event was meant to review, reflect and re-focus on the state of the rule of law in Uganda
over the last 50 years.
All African constitutions without
exception embrace the doctrine and
practice of the rule of law. In the
same vein, almost all African
nations without exception pay lip
service to the rule of law.
Over the years there were indicators of a flawed system of the rule of law; marred by
widespread and consistent abuse of the law, human rights and freedoms, institutional
systems and procedures, and resistance to full
accountability by the State or the powers that
were. Adherence to the rule of law was the
yardstick by which true democracies measured
the quality and enforcement of their law, their
political, economic, social governance and
accountability; and the performance of the three
arms of government. Therefore, this was an
opportune moment for the ULS and Ugandan citizens to critically analyze the state of
the country’s Rule of Law and objectively but candidly highlight areas for improvement
and to recommend and devise ways to achieve absolute rule of law.
ULS President James Mukasa Sebugenyi makes his opening remarks at the 5th Annual ULS Rule of Law
A Word from Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
In her remarks, Dr. Angelika Klein of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung begun by acknowledging
the essence of the rule of law in relation to sustainable democracy. She called for
effective and independent judicial systems that guaranteed and truly enforced rule of
law in the country. While she celebrated the Ugandan Constitution, the supreme law of
the land as a model in the whole of Africa, she decried the large implementation gap that
has negatively impacted on the rule of law. She therefore noted that it was crucial to
identify these gaps and identify strategies to address them. More so, the rule of law
required a sound political environment for the efficient operation of all institutions. She
therefore proffered that it was imperative to secure a conducive environment to allow
platforms for critical assessment and consensus building to flourish. She hoped for and
wished the participants a fruitful, but reflective discourse and applauded the ULS for
using the unique moment to explore the opportunity- the rule of law in Uganda.
Dr. Anjelika Klein, the representative of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
makes her remarks at the Rule of Law Day Event.
But, without a shadow of a doubt,
the Judiciary’s reputation in this
modern Age of the Jubilee’s twilight
will stand vindicated and redeemed
by its courageous resolve to respond
with extraordinary bravery and
boldness to the Black Mamba’s
brazen invasion of the Temple of
Justice. That, seemingly fleeting
moment will forever illuminate the
tides of time to tarry as the shining
pearl in the Country’s judicial crown
Hon. Justice James Ogoola
The official opening ceremony was then followed by the keynote and panelist
presentations. Following the presentations, the participants were accorded an
opportunity to seek clarification on the
presentations, affirm or challenge the presenters’
views and proffer solutions for the way forward.
The highlights of the presentations and key
discussions are captured here below.
2. “The Rule of Law in Uganda: Fifty Years of
Trial & Tragedy”
The remarkable keynote address was presented
by the Hon. Justice James Ogoola the
Chairperson, Judicial Service Commission who
provided a comprehensive reflection of the past
50 years through his assessment of the judiciary and executive arms of government as
implementers of the rule of law. The post independence judicial epoch was divided
under five different ages: Age of Reason; Age of Tension; Age of Chaos, Anarchy, and
Tyranny; Age of the Calm before the Storm; and Age of the Twilight preceding the Jubilee
Year. While the Judiciary was a pre-eminent player in the discussion of the Rule of Law, it
was by no means the exclusive actor on the constitutional stage where the drama of
Law was daily played out. There were other equally significant players that occupied the
constitutional space and played a critical role in the evolving drama. Most notable of
these others was the Executive arm of the State - particularly so the Presidency, the
Army and the Police. For that matter, it was important to take stock of the scorecard of
the Executive and its organs and agencies.
Important to note was the fact that each and every President in Uganda had sworn an
oath to bear true allegiance to the country and fidelity to the law; in particular, to
uphold, to protect and to defend the Nation’s Constitution as by law established.
However the reality as observed from the myriad of presidents and presidencies was
nothing but shear abuse of power and seismic political-cum-Constitutional crisis. The
Executive suffered the power of presidency hence colored by the rule of guile and
intrigue; the Age of Chaos and Anarchy; the Age of Terror and Horror; the Age of
Tension; and Age of the Rule of Teargas, rather than the Rule of Law.
The Judiciary has had a fair share of rebuke as noted from the Udo Udoma Court that set
to conceive, gestate and give birth to a new dispensation of real justice and genuine Rule
of Law amidst the imperial impudence; The Ben Kiwanuka Court that left the bold Chief
Justice to pay the supreme price with his own life; The Jeffreys Jones Commission of
Inquiry that produced the scathing report testifying the lifeless rule of law; The Court in
Electoral Petitions with its discretion in weighing the “substantiality” of the litany of
electoral offences; the infamous double invasion of the High Court premises in
December 2005 and March 2007 by the elite agents of the Army and The Justice Oder
Commission of Inquiry with its diligent and well-researched report that made bold forays
into the dark dungeons of this Country’s past extra-judicial exploits of impunity.
Unimaginably, all this was done by mere pronouncement of executive fiat, without an
iota of or pretence for any due process.
This indeed was a synopsis of how Uganda had fared over the first fifty years of its
history as an independent sovereign entity. Therefore, the struggle to salvage the
nation’s status in her illustrious journey into the second Jubilee, the Platinum Jubilee,
was to ensure that the population, institutions and leadership truly aspired to uphold,
defend and protect the Nation’s fundamental tenets of Justice and the underlying
precepts of the Rule of Law as established in the 1995 Constitution and in all associated
international legal instruments-to which Uganda is party.
The distinguished panel of presenters at the 5th Annual ULS Rule of Law Day Event
The keynote presentation was followed by presentations by eminent panelists who
complemented their interventions to specific angles of Uganda’s Rule Of Law over the
50 years as presented below.
Constitutionalism in Uganda presented by Mr. Peter Muliira
Mr. Peter Mulira’s presentation re-affirmed the need for government’s authority to work
in tandem with the constitutional limitations that sought to protect and promote
citizens’ rights and freedoms. He decried the mixed sovereignty by the government
contrary to the constitutional limitation where power belonged to the people.
Furthermore, the Executive arm of Government had faulted in adhering to the rule of
law as observed from the unconstitutional presidential advisors’ appointment,
overruling the powers of other institutions and interference in land cases. However,
amidst all these slipups, it was important to note that the contribution of the legal
profession to the rule of law was mostly by particular individuals who had taken bold and
courageous steps in this affirmation.
He added therefore that there was need to revisit and reform certain laws but also
identify ways and real performance measures for improving law and policy execution.
Generally, there was need for adherence to the rule of law by promoting equality for all,
access to justice, independence of the judiciary, greater parliamentary scrutiny and
supremacy of the law.
The Contribution of Women in the past 50 Years towards the Rule of Law
Dr. Miria Matembe’s presentation highlighted the women’s journey alongside the
passage the country had traversed through the 50 years to date. She noted however
that it was sad that Uganda hadn’t received its ideal independence due to the
irregularities within the rule of law. Throughout this journey, women played a great role
by working side by side the men in the struggle to recognize the rule of law. Women
sacrificed a lot with their rights being trampled upon during the reign of terror where
several of them were martyred and paid with their own lives.
Further she mentioned that women’s contribution was greatly recognized during the
Constitution making process in 1995 and this involvement is lauded highly for being
gender sensitive. She added that, women’s visibility and audibility had influenced several
policies and laws like the Domestic Violence Law, and Land Act among others. More
noteworthy is the fact that FIDA- a women lawyers’ federation was the first organisation
to provide free legal aid services.
She said however, the women’s movement was slowly disappearing because of the
narrowing operating space that has been entrenched by politics of patronage.
Therefore, the legal fraternity needed to take bolder steps and confront the situation to
deal with the apathy and hopelessness within citizens where the women were most
Hon. Miria Matembe, one of the panelists at the Rule of Law Day event makes her presentation
Rule of Law as a Predominant Factor towards Economic Development
Mr. Moses Byaruhanga focused on the importance of the rule of law for economic
development since it promoted investment. He mentioned that Investors required
confidence in the judiciary for fair hearing in case of property disputes.
Furthermore, that the security of the population also contributed to development hence
the need for a stable and disciplined army. He added that the rule of law also required
laws made transparently and business friendly. Therefore the parliamentary committees
should involve businessmen to provide their expertise.
Mr. Byaruhanga said that it is also important to advocate for strong institutions and fight
against counterfeit goods. He went on to say that the recent oil discovery in Uganda
required law reforms towards equal benefits distribution. Generally, it was important
that we regularly review laws and regulations to enhance business development.
A cross section of the ULS membership standing for the National Anthem
3. Key Discussion Areas
The Keynote and Panelist presentations raised a number of discussion points that were
further elaborated during the plenary, below is a highlight of the key points;
• It is important for lawyers to boldly condemn unlawful acts of torture and limitations
against people’s freedom. Cases of unconstitutional preventive arrests, torture in
prisons, lack of implementation of court orders and criminalizing walking for freedom
were indicators of degenerated rule of law in Uganda. However, there is also need to
find a balance between freedoms and order. In a certain sense the two were polar
opposites; claims from one often came at the expense of the other.
• There is need to develop substantive laws to govern the production of oil in Uganda
to ensure equal benefits distribution for all Ugandans.
• The land law requires immediate amendments to help both the “Bibanja”
holders/land-owners and squatters to receive equitable adjudication in case of