Kampala. Justice Joseph Murangira, who is under investigation for allegedly soliciting a bribe, has attributed his trouble to the Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine whom he claimed is persecuting him because of a perceived succession race between them.
The Principal Judge is the administrative head of the High Court and the subordinate courts.
Mr Murangira, a High Court judge, said his boss thinks he is eyeing his job and ruled out any such intention.
“This matter was brought to my attention by the Principal Judge and I responded to him that what was being alleged against me was trash. But I was surprised that he has since sent the complaint to the JSC (Judicial Service Commission) for investigations. We have our own vendetta as he thinks I want to take over his job,’ Justice Murangira counter-alleged and added: “but I am a humble man who doesn’t want his job.”
However, the Principal Judge Bamwine hit back branding Justice Murangira’s claims of vendetta and succession row as baseless and untenable.
“All that is untrue and unfounded. I am due for retirement from the judicial service in December 2019. The Principal Judge does not determine his/her successor. Succession is determined by the JSC and the appointing authority,” Justice Bamwine stated in his response.
“I had no hand in my own appointment and I should not therefore be drawn in issues of my succession in office,” he added.
Justice Murangira is currently under investigation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on allegations that he sentenced nine people to death and caused disappearance of their case file to deny them chance to appeal after his demand for a Shs9m bribe was rejected by their lawyer.
He denies the accusations and describes them as “trash.”
In his rebuttal, Justice Murangira counter-accused his boss Justice Bamwine of having skipped the Judiciary’ internal disciplinary mechanism where such corruption allegations against him would have been first handled before being forwarded to the JSC for further investigation.
Mr Murangira said he and Mr Bamwine sit in the same High Court building and wondered why the Principal Judge did not summon him to his chambers to discuss the issue internally but preferred to write to JSC.
However, Justice Bamwine countered that referring the matter to JSC was the appropriate option.
“As for the forum, JSC is better placed to determine the way out…” Justice Bamwine said.
It is alleged that the missing file, where the nine people were sentenced to death by Justice Murangira, resurfaced after eight years in the wake of a looming probe. Justice Murangira again blamed Justice Bamwine.
Other missing files
He said currently, there are 534 missing court files and wondered why the Principal Judge picked out only him and left out other judges before whom files have also gone missing.
The probe against Justice Murangira arises from the August 2016 petition to the Principal Judge filed Mr Frank Kanduho, the lawyer for the convicts. Mr Kanduho alleges that some years back, Justice Murangira who was trying his clients on murder charges, asked him to tell the accused to contribute Shs1m each in exchange for their freedom.
Mr Kanduho claims that when he refused, Justice Murangira sentenced all the accused to death and caused their file to disappear, so they could not appeal the judgment.
Justice Murangira dismisses the allegations as baseless and malicious. Justice Murangira accused Mr Kanduho of threatening to get back at him after he convicted his relatives for murder.
He described Kanduho as a person of ‘bad character’ whose claims should not be believed.