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April 10, 2021

DPP Abodo Quits Office After Constitutional Court Ruling

Lady Justice Jane Frances Abodo has moved out of her office as the Director of Public Prosecutions following last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that it is illegal for a judge to be appointed to any executive or constitutional office and that assuming the position without first resigning as judges is illegal.

However, in a memo to all staff, Assistant DPP Alice Komuhangi Khaukha indicated that Abodo will continue being out of the office for a while.

I will continue executing these functions in light of the Constitutional Court decision in Constitutional petition no.16 of 2016 dated March 18, 2021,” the memo reads in part.

Consequently, Khaukha will now serve as the acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the absence of Justice Abodo.

President Museveni in April 2020 appointed High Court judge Jane Frances Abodo as the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to fill the position which was vacant for five months after the then DPP, Justice Mike Chibita was appointed to the Supreme Court.

However, last week, the Constitutional Court ruled that is it illegal for judicial officers to be appointed to any office without first resigning as judges.

The ruling followed a 2016 case filed by lawyer Bob Kasango against the DPP and Attorney General to the Constitutional Court arguing that it was illegal, unconstitutional and causes a fusion between the executive and judiciary on top of undermining the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution for judges to be appointed to other government positions without first resigning as judges.

Last week, in a lead judgment delivered by Justice Kenneth Kakuru, on behalf of a panel of other justices including Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Cheborion Barishaki, Stephen Musota and Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, the Constitutional Court ruled that the same is illegal.

I would like to observe that judges and justices are still being assigned and or appointed to various executive and constitutional offices. The relevant authorities, especially the Judicial Service Commission must ensure that before a judge or justice takes up another appointment, he or she first resigns,” Justice Kakuru ruled.

“Judicial officers as custodians of justice must comply with this constitutional requirement. They must not be seen to be contravening the very constitution they took oath to uphold while requiring others to uphold it. Consequently, any appointment of a judicial officer to any executive or constitutional office prior to his or her resignation from the judiciary shall be null and void and his or her actions will be null and void.”

The judgment, therefore, meant that DPP Justice Jane Frances Abodo and the Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama ought to resign as judges of the High Court so as to continue serving in their current respective positions in which they were appointed by President Museveni.

After stepping aside by Justice Abodo as DPP, it now awaits to be seen whether she will resign as a judicial officer and resume her position as DPP whereas it is also not clear of Justice Byabakama’s stance.