The Chief Justice Alfonso Owiny-Dollo has urged the newly sworn-in Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the four new Members of the Commission to stand by the oath they took before him.
In his remarks on Wednesday (September 29, 2021) after administering the oath to them at the Judiciary Headquarters at High Court Kampala, Justice Dollo stressed the fact that both the Commission and the Judicial Service Commission perform Quasi-Judicial functions which means they make decisions which must be implemented.
“Madam Chair, for you are back in the family territory the only difference is that you are now in the driving seat. The buck now ends with you as head of the Commission. It is the duty of the Uganda of the Uganda Human Rights Commission and that is why the framers of the Constitution deemed it necessary to have a body. It is your duty to ensure that you and I, everybody in this country, citizen and non-nationals can go about carrying their duties without having to look back over their shoulders. To ensure that we live in a society where we are at peace with everybody,” he stated.
He said we live in a society where rights are being abused every day and everywhere before reminding them of the oath they had just taken.
“Without fear means, you have to speak up to authority. If authority is wrong, do not speak hiding; that is why you are here. You speak without fear. If it is an individual who is feared by everybody, make a decision to bring that person to book. Second one is, without favor. Do not favor anyone. In the exercise of your functions, do not favor anyone. You have not been appointed to please anyone. You have been appointed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in this country. That is the function for which you have been appointed. That is the function for which on the day of Judgment the Lord will ask you, I directed the hand of the president to appoint you to judge my people, now account. We can lie to the world, but we can never lie to ourselves and we can never lie to God. Do not have affection. We all have friends, we belong to certain tribe or political party but in doing your work, such should be put aside. Ill-will. There are people who might have wronged you, the oath says do not have ill-will. If you cannot overcome then you declare it and stepdown. This country needs all of us. I do not own this country any more than the chairperson of the UHRC or anybody. In terms of owning this country, we are all at par so be firm,” the Chief Justice emphasized.
At around 1:35pm, the five appointees arrived at the High Court and were ushered into Courtroom I which was already prepared for them and one member of the Judicial Service Commission.
At around 2:20pm, Chief Justice Dollo entered the courtroom with the Chief Registrar Her Worship Sarah Langa Siu. After a brief introduction of the programme by the Commission Public Relations Officer (PRO) His Worship Jameson Karemani and prayer, the Acting Secretary Ms. Ejang was called upon to give a citation introducing each of the appointees to the Chief Justice before they could take oath.
“My lord, the Hon. The Chief Justice, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda, under Article 51(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995, appointed Ms. Wangadya Mariam, Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission and four (4) other distinguished individuals as Members of the Uganda Human Rights Commission. Ms. Wangadya Mariam (before her appointment as Chairperson UHRC, worked as the Deputy Inspector General of Government for eight years. In 1996, she was appointed as a Member of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, a position she held for 17 years. Ms. Wangadya is an accomplished advocate of the Supreme Court of Uganda and all the subordinate courts). My Lord, Ms. Wangadya is before you for swearing in as the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission,” Ms. Ejang stated before the chairperson too oath.
She repeated the similar citation for each of the members of the Commission giving their respective career backgrounds before presenting each of them one after another to the Chief Justice for swearing-in which they did in turns using the bible or Quran. All of them took two oaths; one of allegiance and another of secrecy.
After the five were done with their respective oaths, the Secretary introduced the Commissioner Mulumba who was present and Commissioner Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba in absentia. She then introduced the Directors and other members of staff at the ceremony before inviting the newly sworn-in chairperson to give her inaugural speech.
Ms. Wangadya gave a concise speech beginning with an appreciation to the President and parliament and alluded to the mandate of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, her new role and a call to the general public.
“We pledge to the Your Lordship and to the people of Uganda and all stakeholders that we will perform our duties without fear or favor. It is our view, My Lord, that all our functions are equally very important, none of which is superior or inferior to the other. Hence, we will devote our energies, focus and resources to all of them equally. I take this rare opportunity to call upon the people of Uganda, to respect the rights and freedoms of other and to be law abiding. Duties and responsibilities of cities are important as human rights and freedoms. Individual human rights matter and so does National peace and security, which must not be compromised,” she said.
She then thanked the Chief Justice for sparing time to president over the swearing before she invited him to also deliver his speech. After the CJ’s speech, the newly sworn-in Chairperson and Commissioners proceeded and took a group photo with the Chief Justice at the Eastern Wing of the High Court.
It was a hive of activity at the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) headquarters yesterday (Wednesday) morning when the newly appointed chairperson and members of the Commission turned up ahead of their swearing-in by the Chief Justice in the afternoon.
The chairperson Ms. Marriam Wangadya, members of the Commission; Hajat Shifra Lukwago, Fr. Simon Lokodo, Hon. Chrispin Kaheeru and Hon. Jacklet Atuhairwe started arriving at the Commission at around 10:30am and were ushered into the Commission boardroom.
They were then officially welcomed by the Acting Chairperson and fellow member of the Commission Hon. Meddie B. Mulumba and the Acting Secretary to the Commission Ms. Margaret Ejang.
Ms. Ejang in her introductory remarks congratulated each of them for having been appointed by the President and then outlined the programme of the day which included tour of the Commission offices and handing over of cars to each of them.
Hon. Mulumba also congratulated the new appointees and expressed gratitude to the President for having appointed such eminent persons. In his brief speech, he highlighted a few challenges the Commission has been facing in the period without a chairperson ever since the incumbent Hon. Med S.K Kaggwa died in November 2019.
“Every time we would go to other entities like ministry of finance to seek budgetary approvals or enhancements we would be met with questions like; But the Commission is not constituted, what is this for?” he said.
After the brief interaction in the boardroom the Secretary led them around the offices on both third and fourth floor on Twed Plaza which the Commission occupies and occasionally introduced the officeholders by name to the new Chairperson and Commissioners.
She then led them to the parking lot at the basement of the same building and each Commissioner was given an opportunity to choose among the four cars that were already on standby. The chairperson’s car was already set aside as left behind by her predecessor.
After selecting the cars, the five proceeded to Piato restaurant in the neighborhood of the Commission for lunch before heading to the High Court Kampala.
Brief Profiles of new Commissioners
Fr. Lokodo Simon: is a former State Minister for Ethics and Integrity and formerly a Member of Parliament Dodoth West Constituency, Karenga District.
Mr. Chrispin Kaheru: A distinguished human rights activist with more than 15 years of International experience in designing, implementing and evaluating community level elections, human rights, accountability, peace building and conflict resolution initiatives in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe.
Ms. Shifrah Lukwago: A distinguished Advocate of the Supreme Court of Uganda and all subordinate Courts. She is the Vice Chairperson Makerere University Business School Council (2019-2021) and has served on various committees at Makerere University and as member of the Council from 2007-2012
Ms. Atuhaire Jacklet before her appointment, has been the Executive Director, Extractive Energy Services Limited. She is a former Member of Parliament for Sheems district. She served as a member of the Committee on Science and Technology, Member of the Public Accounts Committee and Member of the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs of Parliament.
About the Commission
The Uganda Human Rights Commission is set up by Article 51 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The Commission is headed by the Chairperson and at least three members of the Commission. The chairperson of the commission has to be a judge of the High Court or a person qualified to hold that office. Both the chairperson and members of the commission serve for a period of six years and are eligible for reappointment.
The Commission is the policy-making body of the institution while the day today administration is done and run by the Secretary to the Commission who is also the Accounting Officer.