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‘Idle’ Supreme Court gets another multi-billion temporary home

The development comes amidst heavy criticism from the public, with many condemning the highest court in the country of indefinitely suspending operations since end of May after a fire that gutted the former premises in Kololo, a Kampala urban suburb.

The former UNRA headquarters located at Plot 5, Lourdel Road, in Kampala is the new Supreme Court home (Photo/File)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Supreme Court of Uganda will effective next week move into a new location at Plot 5, Lourdel Road, opposite the Ministry of Health headquarters in Kampala, court registrar Ms Harriet Ssali has confirmed.

The building which is the former headquarters of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) will serve as the temporary home for the highest court in the country as it awaits completion of the 63 billion twin tower at the Judiciary headquarters that will serve as the new home for both the Supreme Court and the Appellate Court.

The development comes amidst heavy criticism from the public, with many condemning the highest court in the country for indefinitely suspending operations since end of May after a fire that gutted the former premises in Kololo, a Kampala urban suburb.

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo defending the suspension of the court’s operations said following the fire incident, there had been water leakages that led to the indefinite flooding in the Justices’ Chambers causing damage to the furniture, books, and other court properties.

The former Supreme Court Chambers on fire in April’s incident at the Court’s headquarters in Kololo

“These incidents have made it unsafe to continue in occupation of the said premises without a proper assessment of the damage and effecting appropriate rectification. The landlord has been duly notified to assess and rectify the defects”, Owiny-Dollo said then in a statement, further suggesting that the judicial officers who had been occupying the building were to work from home until further notice.

However, in a critical opinion published in the WeeklyObserver on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, Ugandan Human rights lawyer and activist Isaac Ssemakadde condemned the apex court judges for earning billions yet they are not working at full capacity.

“A session of the Supreme court would require just five or seven judges, some support staff, a few lawyers and their clients, and select representatives of the media and the public. This number would clearly be under 100 people.” Mr Ssemakadde commented in The Observer.

“It is surely possible to find many alternative cost-free venues for the Supreme court to sit in today and serve the people of Uganda without excuse. If the judicial system is to deliver on its constitutional mandate, the example must be set from the top. What we are seeing here is not a good example.”

Ssemakadde’s comment followed an earlier petition by Justice Dr Esther Kisaakye Kitimbo who on October 3, 2022, sued the Chief Justice and Judiciary Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana challenging the indefinite closure of the top court.

Following the severe criticism, a three-member delegation from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), led by Chairperson Mr Benjamin Kabiito, yesterday (Thursday) visited the new premises of the Supreme Court; to confirm the readiness of the premises for occupation effective next week.

Mr Kabiito was accompanied by Commissioners Ms Norah Matovu and Hajji Lubega Waggwa Badru and the Judiciary Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Judiciary Pius Bigirimana.

The new Supreme Court Building is located at Plot 5, Lourdel Road, in Kampala

Bigirimana explained to the JSC officials that the Supreme Court will temporarily occupy the third and fourth floors of the building, while the first and second floors of the building will accommodate the Anti-Corruption and International Crimes Divisions of the High Court.

In May this year, the Judiciary PS said the new building upon commission would save the Judiciary up to 9.7 billion shillings in rent arrears on various rented court buildings in Kampala. The judiciary was spending 2.1 billion shillings annually on renting the Kololo Supreme Court Offices, and 3.7 billion shillings on renting just part of Twed Plaza for the Court of Appeal offices.

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