Champion of Ugandan judicial independence dies

A champion of judicial integrity and independence in Uganda, retired Supreme Court justice, Wilson Nattubu Tsekooko, has died. He was 76.

 

Justice Tsekooko died this week six years after retiring from Uganda's highest court where he had worked as a Supreme Court justice for some 21 years. He had been suffering from prostate cancer. Justice Tsekooko began his life in the law as a state attorney but after a few years he started work as a lawyer in the private sector. During the failing years of the Idi Amin regime, he left the country and lived in exile until that government fell.

Some 11 years after his return to Uganda came the first judicial appointment, to a position on the High Court from which he was elevated to the Supreme Court in 1999.

The judge is seen in many quarters as one of the best Uganda has ever produced. Among the judgments for which he is still remembered is his 2001 minority decision that would have annulled the political victory by Yoweri Museveni and allowed his main opponent victory at the polls. And not just once. Justice Tsekooko made a similar decision in a 2006 challenge.

He was also famous for his comments about ‘cadre judges, by which he said he meant jurists whose judgments seemed to indicate that they were more impressed by their ‘allegiance to the government’ than by the facts, evidence or arguments made before them during a hearing.

In his view, the rise of ‘cadre judges’ undermined the integrity of Uganda’s judiciary which was once seen as among the most independent in Commonwealth Africa.