The purpose of an Attorney General (AG) is to be the chief representative of the state, especially in court-related legal matters.
This is considered so important that sometimes the person holding the post is also the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
This is laughable because justice and constitutionalism are difficult things to achieve in the colonial contraption known as Uganda, and especially while under the control of this National Resistance Movement (NRM) government which perpetually boasts of having captured state power through terrorism, and arguably crimes against humanity, disguised as a popular insurrection led by the National Resistance Army (NRA).
The claim by the state of Uganda to be a legal, legitimate and law-abiding entity is fraudulent. It was fraudulent from when the state was created by trickery, force and theft in 1894 as the Uganda Protectorate, and became fraudulent again after the death of the attempted hopes of the Independence Constitution in 1967.
But that is one thing. The real issue here is the office of the AG because, in it, we see the state’s active claim to legitimacy and lawfulness. It cannot be gainsaid that the office of the AG is immensely important. As the principal legal representative of government, the AG is the head of the Bar and automatically becomes Senior Counsel.
These titles are a little tedious, and relics of the late-feudal manners of the royal palace courts of England. But coming out of that, there is actually a need to examine if, indeed, we need such an office, banding together many types of power, as derived from its original Euro-feudal origins. Why, for example, does the lawyer representing one side in a court case have to defer to the lawyer for the other side because they are “senior counsel”?
And why should the AG be seen also as head of the Bar? How then will other lawyers dispute with such a lawyer in court or at the bar association, when the lawyer heads the association to which all lawyers are answerable? And, moreover, the “senior counsel” thing is already hanging over their heads?
FOR GOVT OR FOR STATE
The bottom line is that “everyone needs a lawyer”, to paraphrase the human rights guru Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi. Even governments, and the state. The question of “which is which” is what has basically destroyed the standing of the AG’s office in Ugandan eyes.
Is the AG a lawyer for the government of the day, or a lawyer for the state? If what the government is doing is not in the best interests of the state, and the people who are supposed to be its owners, then where should the AG place their obligation? To help the government, or to protect the state?
In 1966/7, two constitutions were written in quick succession and imposed on a cowed population: one overnight and then voted for by a parliament facing guns and without reading it, and another after the parliament’s term had expired.
The latter was then amended quite a bit to make it even more dictatorial. Since then, this has really been bandit country. For example, the Local Governments Act was amended twice by the end of 1967 to undermine the powers of districts to elect their own chairpersons and transfer that power to the Minister.
But to cover up this essentially structural crisis of democracy, Uganda has always had an AG, purporting to be the legal face of a legal state, and law-abiding government.
DRESSING A NAKED STATE
All governments of Uganda (including the present junta) have had a constitution without constitutionalism. The effect of each of these constitutions has been to rebuild the whole state around the Presidency, just as the whole colonial state was built around the throne of the Imperial British Empire, represented locally by the Governor.
Ugandan presidents have been replacement governors ever since. An Attorney General is an official appointed by such presidents and working under their authority.
Instead of curating justice and fostering constitutionalism by helping enforce proper laws, they have often instead provided the legal cover-up for not just the illegal and unconstitutional acts of their respective presidents, but also the basic illegality and illegitimacy of the Uganda state itself.
Uganda has had an interesting array of them: Godfrey Binaisa, who helped President Milton Obote write those two aforementioned constitutions (the first one within 24 hours). He resigned in 1968 over disagreements with Obote regarding the presidential powers of detention (among other constitutional matters), and went into private legal practice.
Binaisa later became president under the anti-Amin Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) coalition of 1979-1980, but his lack of focus and ideological dithering contributed to its being overthrown militarily.
Nkambo Mugerwa, Godfrey Lule, and Mathia Matovu undergirded Field Marshal Idi Amin’s reign of terror, before decamping and settling for private practice. Prof George Kanyeihamba, who is a critic of President Museveni nowadays.
But he was swiftly defenestrated from the cabinet room when he opined that Ugandans (like Democratic Party stalwart Mzee Byanyima, the father of Winnie Byanyima) whose ranches had been seized by “the government he served” should be compensated. Ironically, Kanyeihamba had worked tirelessly in the early days of the NRM/NRA rule to create a “legal” basis for some of the basically unnatural (in constitutional terms) ways in which the junta was governing.
For instance, having President Museveni function also as the “chair” – effectively Speaker – of the putative parliament, the so-called National Resistance Council; and explaining the one- party system as a constitutional system, etc. He went on to become a Supreme court judge and infamously refused to recuse himself in the case of a high-ranking military officer challenging the terms of his employment as a soldier, even though the NRM/NRA – of which Kanyeihamba was a fervent supporter – had a clear interest in the matter.
Joseph Ekemu, along with his personal assistant were jailed for two years at Luzira prison over the theft of Shs 113 million that was meant for compensation of Teso people from whom the NRA had stolen cattle during the insurgency of 1987-1990. He was instantly disbarred, but later reinstated on the roll of advocates after satisfying the Law Council that he was “repentant”.
In May 2018, Ekemu and a coterie of poverty-stricken former MPs stormed Parliament House with a begging bowl, lobbying for pension, gratuity, jobs and sinecures in government because they had failed to find employment in the private sector.
Bart Katureebe, resigned the seat at the time many controversial constitutional changes were afoot. He went on to be a Supreme court judge and continued its legacy of ignoring evidence of election fraud in presidential election cases. In his valedictory as Chief Justice, he was the tie-breaker in a 4:3 verdict that condoned the desecration of the present constitution, to secure a life presidency for Museveni, through a military invasion of parliament and the erosion of participatory democracy.
Prof Khiddu Makubuya, was believed by many to be the pre-eminent legal mind of his time until a spectacular fall from grace on 16 February 2012 when he was forced to resign from the cabinet so as to avoid parliamentary censure for corruption.
He is notoriously remembered for trying to persuade the Electoral Commission that opposition supremo Dr Kizza Besigye should not be nominated as a candidate in the 2006 presidential elections, because an ongoing court case against him made him still not guilty but nevertheless “less innocent” in the eyes of the law.
Peter Nyombi, who replaced Makubuya, fared no better. In August 2013, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) issued him with a “certificate of incompetence” and suspended him from its membership for two years, after he had rendered a series of opinions that contravened conventional legal understanding and brought disrepute to the bar.
He is remembered for trying to persuade the Speaker of Parliament that rebel NRM MPs could not keep their parliamentary seats after the party had expelled them, and for endorsing the appointment of a serving military officer to the cabinet, and the retention of Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki in office beyond the mandatory retirement age.
In January 2014, a young lawyer embarrassed AG Nyombi at the dais when he was addressing a bar-bench gathering by relieving him of his speech. The activist, who I had the privilege of representing at Buganda Road Chief Magistrates’ court, was later acquitted of all charges, despite Nyombi’s passionate plea for a conviction. He was subsequently dropped from the cabinet in 2015 following concerns by US authorities that he was involved in trafficking Ugandan children for adoption abroad.
Sam Kutesa, about whom the less said, before, during and certainly after his stint as AG, the better. There is simply not enough space to list all his embarrassments.
Then there was also William Byaruhanga, pleasant and anodyne, who put in some largely uneventful shift as the immediate past government defender. Prior to that, he was first seen some two decades earlier, when briefly sucked into the infamous junk helicopter scandal through an alleged association with one of the key suspects.
I have nothing bad on Joseph Mulenga, Abu Mayanja and Francis Ayume, and the jury is still out on the others. However, my point is: that there has been no time since 1966 when we can be said to have been governed “legally”. In good faith? Possibly, during the immediate post-Amin period. But legally and constitutionally: no.
All these AGs have been part of that process. Many left either corrupted, or disappointed, or both. Perhaps some, like Ayume, Mayanja and Mulenga, re-emerged unscathed. But was that because of an absence of controversial issues at the time, or a matter of integrity?
What makes the newcomer different is that he has gone in when already part of a very corrupted system. It is, therefore, a case of a monkey meeting its mating partner: a charlatan of a lawyer, occupying a charlatan of a law job.
PEOPLE, AND “PEOPLE” (ABAANA N’EBYANA)
To understand this, we must now understand the person. We have already explained the job. Born in rural Gombe, Mpigi district on 8 June 1973 but raised in exile in the leafy suburbs of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Kiryowa Kiwanuka Nsumikambi Mugambe comes from a long line of what is now an established tradition of NRM patronage and affinity for descendants of “noble families”, especially for Ugandans from outside Western Uganda.
Essentially, in every NRM-backed appointment for this category of Ugandans, there is a trade with a prominent name, often one associated with either the triumphs or tragedies of Uganda’s political journey.
In his song Mac Onywalo Buru (Fire Begets Ash) that brought him trouble, the singer Bosmic Otim castigates the sons of many historically prominent leaders from northern Uganda for ending up working nominally for this regime. He names James Akena, Okello Oryem and Taban Amin, among others.
But this has not been just a northern Uganda problem. Many similar families from the south and east have seen their “suitable” sons and daughters served up to be regime hacks, apologists and hatchet men and women.
In this category of regime surrogates, one may cite people like Maurice Kiwanuka, son of the legendary Ben Kiwanuka, who ended up losing the family home in some bid to raise money to retain his parliamentary seat; Wasswa Lule, son of the first post- Amin president and NRM figurehead and activist in the war years; Zimula Mugwanya, grandson of Matayo Mugwanya, one-time regent to Kabaka Cwa, and founder of the Democratic Party; Ahmed Kinene, cousin to martyred bush war veteran and social campaigner Abbas Kibazo; Beatrice Magoola, granddaughter of Zirabamuzaale, a war companion of the British-supporting General Semei Kakungulu; Beti Kamya, daughter of Lt Col George Wilson Kamya, Paymaster General of the Uganda Army in the Amin era; Syda Bbumba, also a descendant of Mugwanya; Maria Kiwanuka, granddaughter of former Katikkiro Martin Nsibirwa; and many more.
The purpose of such inclusions has been to, of course, draw on whatever localised legitimacy those names carry in the communities of the families concerned, but also to extinguish any independent political potency the name may carry.
In other words, it is an act of taming the offspring of the otherwise free parent animal, the same way man domesticated wolves to create pet dogs that are only wolf-like on command of the master. Many have been approached, few have resisted.
NO REPUTATION TO LOSE
The new Attorney General is, as I say, different again. If indeed few previous appointees have managed to leave this post with their reputations intact, then what makes Kiryowa Kiwanuka special is that he goes to the post with no reputation of worth to lose in the first place.
Orphaned at 18 following the tragic motor accident that claimed the life of his father Jimmy Mugambe (a government pensioner) in 1991, KK, as he is fondly called by friends and hangers-on, comes to this position from nearly 20 years of working with the first family, the NRM, and a cast of greedy and shady characters like his brother-in-law Apollo Senkeeto, the convicted mastermind of the Mukono- Kyetume-Katosi road procurement scam that robbed Uganda of billions of shillings.
In a special report titled “Museveni’s Nyekundire resurrects for 2011 polls”, published as a cover story by The Independent on 16 June 2009, Kiryowa Kiwanuka was cited as “one of the key organisers” of Nyekundire (Runyankore for ‘volunteers’) – a covert assembly of nouveaux riche campaigners for an old and lonely president.
The group allegedly included relatives of President Museveni and a cabal of fat cats secretively drawn from the military, intelligence, business and government sectors.
They were “mainly driven by a sense of gratitude and fear because many of them have largely benefited from the NRM government and feel that it is only Museveni who can guarantee their continued success. They are insecure and fear that any other leader could possibly jeopardize their ‘successes’”.
Riding again on a family name (as the grandson of a famous newspaper publisher, nightclub owner, soccer patron and Uganda Peoples’ Congress co-founder Joseph William “Jolly Joe” Kiwanuka, who was allegedly killed by President Idi Amin), KK acquired high-level connections in the court of Museveni’s make-believe kingdom initially as a nephew of long-time State House stenographer and former trade minister Amelia Kyambadde, and later as a legal associate of first son-in-law Edwin Karugire.
KK’s aunt, Amelia Kyambadde, is herself a daughter of Omuwanika (Kabaka’s finance minister) Serwano Ssenseko Wofunira Kulubya (CBE), the Anglican oligarch who served as the first African mayor of the city of Kampala from 1959 to 1961.
KK’s loyalty and service as an errand boy of the president and his family, and later hired gun for the ruling party, have been recognised and rewarded with the highest political honour. The lanky lawyer has wormed his way into cabinet without the bane of a pernicious election. The implication is clear that KK has come to complete the fusion of family, party and government under a de facto Kingdom.
Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s appointment as AG is particularly problematic for the judiciary, and the legal profession. First of all, his main client – the septuagenarian president – has been in power for so long that he has now appointed every member of the “independent” judicial service commission, and every judicial officer from registrar to the judges and justices of the superior courts.
However, all these appointments have been shrouded in mystery. A cabal of powerful and well-connected law firms and other lobbyists is known to assist many hopefuls to get the call, and to obstruct “the undesirables”. Accusations persist of packing the superior courts with “cadre judges”, and the lower courts with “DNRA” – i.e. the Descendants of NRA fighters and comrades.
Since KK has long been suspected of having the president’s ear and serving as a judiciary sleuth of sorts, he is poised to appear before many judges that may feel obliged to sheepishly agree with him or walk on egg shells for fear of reprisal.
A few may actually want to punish him for their perceived career stagnation or his complicity in the general lawlessness. The KK-factor will certainly be inescapable. Secondly, it is an open secret that the president has turned the government of Uganda into a money-making operation for his family, his friends and himself.
This is a complete betrayal of the constitutional design, in which K&K Advocates (formerly Kiwanuka & Karugire Advocates) is inextricably entangled. However, it is unclear whether the incoming AG relinquished his interests in the aforementioned law firm before taking the oath of office on 8 July 2021.
The firm’s website continues to advertise him as one of its practice leaders. He certainly said nothing about stepping aside from private legal practice a week ago when hosted on Zoom by the ULS Young Lawyers’ Committee ostensibly for some kind of mentorship on “pathways to success in the legal profession”.
Despite basking in the media spotlight since his nomination was announced more than a month ago, Kiryowa Kiwanuka has not explained how he will simultaneously serve as the nation’s chief legal officer and maintain his interests in a full-service law firm that represents both private and public sector clients in a wide range of fields, including media, telecoms, finance, transport, energy, construction and medical supplies.
How does he plan to insulate himself from potential conflicts of interest? KK’s failure to lead other political appointees by demonstrably clarifying such ethical imperatives for high state office contradicts any pretense that he is a well-intentioned reformer, an anti-corruption Czar or champion of clean and open government.
In a rather prescient interview published by The Independent on 3 May 2016, Kiryowa Kiwanuka underscored his fanatical support for President Museveni, and confessed to suffering from hubris (arrogance and excessive pride) and telling lies on occasion “for survival” and “when it is necessary”.
When asked about his most marked characteristic, the future AG replied: “I am too dismissive.” Regarding the one thing he wished to change about himself, he replied: “Increase on humility; if I could just be there without being in anyone’s face.”
Of his greatest achievement, KK stated: “Insisting on myself.” And his personal motto: “Insist on yourself.” Clearly, this interview revealed a lot about the mind map of our next AG. It personally reminded me of another brilliant lawyer, fanatical supporter and former errand boy of President Museveni, the late Brig Noble Mayombo, whose personal motto was a famous quip attributed to French King Louis XIV: “L’etat, c’est moi”, which means “I myself am the State.”
Does Museveni the tyrant hypnotize all his legal acolytes?
Hence the new AG is “an ardent supporter of President Museveni”, and “a liar” who is “too dismissive” and wanting in humility. He has a tendency of “insisting on himself”, and his entire professional purpose has been to help fuse the private affairs and interests of the first family (and by extension his own) with those of the state.
In a nutshell, Kiryowa Kiwanuka is a useful idiot. He has not been appointed for his juridical opinion but, rather, for his obedience to the House of Kaguta. When the great questions of the day come (and they are coming pretty soon), we will surely see the glorified errand boy who suffers from hubris and mendacity completely exposed to the elements.
This brings us to the questions likely to arise between 2021 and 2026, and why KK was thought fit for the job in the perspective of the appointing authority. The first one, but perhaps not the most important, is the question of mailo land tenure system, which the president has vowed to obliterate.
Mailo is a tricky and very emotive issue among the Baganda, and for good reason. Mailo as a land tenure system is unique not just to Uganda, but especially to Buganda. Grounded in the 1900 Buganda Agreement with the British, it created private land (private mailo) far beyond the reach of state actors.
In fact, in the entire British Empire, as was, Buganda and the archipelago of Tonga were the only two colonised places where land was left in the hands of natives in some fashion, by law, i.e. the new colonial arrangements. In Buganda’s case, it was a result of the concessions the conquering Brits had had to make to the Anglican warlords who had helped secure their victory.
Mailo has since become part of the identity issues in Buganda. Critics will point out that the land was given to elite families and it created dual ownership (squatters and landlords), but there is very little dissent (if any) for the system among the Baganda (be they elite or ordinary citizens).
In Buganda, we look askance at this government’s intentions for mailo land because we have had enough of the wolf guarding the sheep, and the fox guarding the hen house. As Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga has pointed out, the disputes that have emerged on a large scale over mailo land are disputes peculiar to Museveni’s reign and Museveni’s people.
To the extent that mailo land is, or may become a problem, shouldn’t this be a matter for those concerned, i.e. the people of the Kingdom of Buganda, and its institutions, to resolve?
Few issues define Buganda — the monarchy, language, clan structure, traditions like kwanjula and of course mailo. Dismantling mailo is, therefore, political dynamite. It then helps (visually at least) if the arguments against mailo are going to be made not just by any Muganda, but the “much learned” grandson of Jolly Joe Kiwanuka who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s as the spokesman of anti- Bulange forces.
Bulange House, in Mengo, is the true pride of Buganda Kingdom, and its Capitol. In this regard, KK is “better” than previous AGs who lacked this pedigree. It is also helpful if the movers of such a patently unpopular motion have no political constituency to hold them back from committing political suicide. Both KK and the incoming state minister for Lands Dr Sam Mayanja, another Museveni- hypnotized anti-Bulange Muganda and wonkish lawyer, are both unelected and unelectable eunuchs.
BUT WHY WOULD ONE WANT TO DISMANTLE MAILO NOW?
The NRM having made inroads into previously hostile political territory, notably Teso in the East and Lango and Acholi in the North, now sees Buganda as dispensable. Use and dump.
Mailo was of course not always popular with the ruling elite, but it just could not be done away with in the past. In his memoir, Sowing The Mustard Seed, the fabled rebel leader recounts his experiences of the 1981-1986 “bush war”, stressing the potent support his guerillas received from Buganda which was an organized and settled ethnic group.
The proposed anti-mailo reforms are, therefore, aimed at further emasculating Buganda as a potential base of future resistance, given the very poor showing of the ruling party in Buganda at the last elections (vote-rigging notwithstanding). However, KK will soon discover that the anti-mailo brief is actually a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
How can the junta “reform” a land ownership system that, while they condemn it as “unfair”, has been one of the most sought-after items of booty (omunyago) by its top brass and cronies precisely because of its legal value? How will they now avoid harming their own ill-gotten interests in mailo land? Much as there are challenges with mailo and indeed other land tenure systems in Buganda and the rest of Uganda, the one thing KK will not be able to do is use his new office to develop effective legal remedies.
The entire mission of this regime, since 1986, has actually been the opposite: to take advantage of these problems. The second reason is that virtually all public land has now been grabbed by the 1986 “Bush War” Mafia (more commonly known as “Twateera Embundu” by the public) and the significant lands still available in the central region are mailo.
Having succeeded in giving away gazetted forest land, game parks, swamps, wetlands and green spaces to (often immigrant) squatters, bush war veterans, and lately all manner of “investors”, the junta now seeks a “legal” way to do this on mailo land.
Historically, regime big shots were able to grab large tracts of mailo land simply by ignoring laws protecting squatters on mailo land, while using the same laws as leverage against non-connected mailo owners to buy them out (since the land space had become useless to the titular owner, due to the said squatters).
However, there was near unanimous outrage expressed against the regime at the last elections by the victims of land grabbing in Buganda. Hence the appointment of a chief law officer from a prominent family of landowners (the Kulubyas), as some sort of elixir guaranteed to win back the confidence of both mailo landowners and squatters.
Unfortunately, given the historical role of the AG’s office in serving this unconstitutional state, Kiryowa Kiwanuka will neither stop nor reverse state-backed pillage schemes. Indeed his brief, based on recent policy statements, is to justify new legal maneouvres, including constitutional amendments, that will further ease acquisition of mailo land but this time through eminent domain (allegedly for public use, with nominal compensation).
PROTECTING THE EATERS
The second issue and perhaps the most important in KK’s appointment is the question of succession or, as others call it, transition. Since African countries started getting independence in the 1950s to-date, about 15 presidents have died in office, the latest being John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania and Idriss Déby Itno of Chad.
In most of the cases, the articles of transition are very clear, and the structures of state are democratically governed so that transition is always smooth. This was the case with Magufuli to Samia Suluhu in Tanzania. In at least two cases where the constitution was clear (Kenya and Malawi), the “muwogo” (cassava bread) mafia tried to prevent the vice president from ascending to the throne. Both were unsuccessful.
In the Kenyan case when Jomo Kenyatta died in 1978, it was the Attorney General Charles Njonjo who helped Daniel arap Moi fend off the Kikuyu “muwogo” mafia who wanted to usurp power. In Malawi, following President Bingu wa Mutharika’s death, there were plots by his allies to circumvent the constitution and install their own candidate (the late president’s brother Peter Mutharika) over Vice-President Joyce Banda.
Both cases, in particular, illustrate how a constitutional transition requires support from key actors, particularly the cabinet, military leaders, judiciary, civil society, and the independent media. The AG is, therefore, one of the cogs that move the wheels of succession.
The point to take home is this: some of the chaotic presidential successions have involved sons — Mahamat ibn Idriss Déby Itno in Chad, Faure Gnassingbé in Togo, Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ali Bongo Ondimba in Gabon.
Déby and Kabila were straight-forward installations by the military. Gnassingbe was initially installed by the military but was rejected by the international community. He then resigned and held elections which he won.
Ali Bongo was fronted by his party to replace his father. None of these sons were first in the line of succession at the demise of their respective fathers. They were simply lurking in the wings. You know who else is lurking, don’t you?
So, God forbid, when succession/transition comes in Uganda, with whom will KK as AG side? The ‘people’ or ‘House of Kaguta’? In other words, the above-described AG “loyalty dilemma” will raise its head again. In a messy transition, the AG has one other role to play for which KK was obviously seen as the only sure bet who can execute it — issuance of legal notices. These are the instruments of notoriety used by a regime that has overthrown a constitution.
CHANGING POLITICAL CONFIGURATIONS
As we have said, they have been written at least five times in this country. We already mentioned the most famous being in 1966/7. But there have also been legal notices for 1971, 1979, 1985 and 1986.
To get these done, the president or his family needs more than a subservient AG on their side. As Godfrey Binaisa was for Obote’s case in 1966, they need one who dogmatically believes in the infamous Kelsenian theory, and has no qualms about distancing the courts from the affairs of the military and the state. KK fits the bill.
The third reason the grandson of rabble-rouser Kiwanuka was named AG is his eight-year-old Twitter account which currently boasts of 47,800 followers, including some high-profile influencers and rank-and-file followers that both push messages in his direction and promote every online utterance he makes.
Besides the president, few other members of the cabinet enjoy such visibility on social media. KK’s predecessor William Byaruhanga did not even have an account on any social media platform. In his Twitter bio, KK describes himself as “Partner at K&K Advocates formerly Kiwanuka & Karugire Advocates – Multilaw. Board Member, Petroleum Authority of Uganda. MAK Council member. C/man Express FC.” However, his tweets reveal that he has also been a politician, if not AG, all along. Nodding to supporters. Fending off challenges by the opposition.
Accepting media engagements. Basically politics!
When human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was charged with money laundering last year, KK took to Twitter on Christmas day to defend the state’s action. Recently he denounced false reporting on the death of a public figure, and his boss followed this up with a directive. @KiyowaKk is therefore a strategic megaphone where KK is expected to continue his characteristic scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners style of dealing with a younger, more tech-savvy and brasher opposition to a decaying junta.
History repeats itself.
KK’s grandfather, Jolly Joe Kiwanuka, is widely remembered as a fiery politician who weaponized his Kololo-based newspapers, The Uganda Post and The Uganda Express, as a power base to criticize the Kabaka’s government and destroy rivals like DP’s Ben Kiwanuka and former comrades like Ignatius Kangave Musaazi with whom he had fallen out, while propping up his latest dalliances like the sweetheart deal with Apollo Milton Obote.
Despite being the chairman of Musaazi’s Uganda National Congress, Jolly Joe spearheaded the coalition with Uganda People’s Union in 1960 to form the Uganda’s People’s Congress (UPC), through which Obote came into power in 1962. Jolly Joe’s disruptiveness transcended politics.
Writing for The Observer on 24 May 2018 in an article titled “How Jolly Joe wooed Nekyon into football”, sports historian Hassan Badru Zziwa recounts several battles that KK’s grandfather, the founder of Express FC and untouchable UPC darling of the day, ruthlessly waged against his football rivals in the sixties, including Rev Polycarp Kakooza and Bitumastic FC (which he got banned through parliament for engaging in unsporting activities).
Museveni, a UPC youth-winger and an errand boy of Obote in those days, must have observed the Machiavellian methods of KK’s grandfather with much adoration. Having had plentiful time to groom Jolly Joe’s grandson in the same traditions, the septuagenarian must be supremely confident, as was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, that now is the time to unleash his monster of an Attorney General on the nation.
Using a mixture of carrot and stick, the junta has almost succeeded in shackling civil society and the political opposition in Uganda. However, there are some relentless and incorruptible campaigners like KK’s contemporary Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and a new wave of younger radical elites like Dr Ekwaro Obuku of the Uganda Medical Association, Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi of Makerere University Academic Staff Association, maverick lawyer Male Mabirizi, and Bobi Wine’s educated NUP “hooligans”, for whom new and smart forms of repression must be designed.
The threat posed by this group of charismatic, radical elites cannot be taken lightly. Our history shows that they were instrumental in Museveni’s rise to power, having led the resistance against the dictatorships of Idi Amin and Milton Obote. In Sudan, the Sudan Professionals Association – a group incorporating lawyers, doctors, engineers and teachers – helped to organise the protests against dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Doctors set up camps to treat the wounded, lawyers rescued the arrested, and when the military tried to hijack the revolution, their coordinated efforts kept the momentum going and forced a civilian transitional government to be appointed. Boy Wonder KK’s brief is, therefore, to help a dysfunctional regime win back the hearts and minds of Uganda’s middle-class professional elites.
He will attempt to do this by capitalizing on pseudo-celebrity status as a member of both golf and soccer royalty, and further as a pseudo-intellectual and philanthropist who makes emotional or intellectual appeals that mask the junta’s endemic illegitimacy, brutality and corruption. To his credit, he understands the game, and can fool many gullible elites.
I confirmed this when I observed him closely at work as the first lady’s appointee on the Makerere University Council, where he was a member of its appointments board since January 2019. Several litigations have arisen from his conduct as a council member, especially his latest stint as chairperson of the all-powerful search committee mandated to recruit college principals and deputy principals.
In the College of Health Sciences at Mulago, KK was accused by a group of nearly 70 senior staff of bending the rules to favour the spouse of a State House employee. The iconic Ivory Tower literally burned under his watch. Yet many elites still think he did a good job of “cleaning up the rot” at the oldest and largest university in Uganda.
Knowing better, it behooves us to sound the alarm. Building from Kelsenian beliefs and deep antipathy to constitutionalism, Kiryowa Kiwanuka will personally appear in court more often than other AGs before him, defending not the rule of law but rule by the law. Beholden to the House of Kaguta, KK will not bother himself with justice and the fight against corruption. There may be a new sheriff in town, but it is business as usual.
From a jurisprudential perspective, AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka will espouse legal positivism, interpreting laws so narrowly as to throw out the spirit in which they were drafted, or the constitutional values that they were meant to advance.
In short, he will be just another rascal with a wig, a robe, a brief and, of course, a Twitter account.
The author is the founder and chief executive of Legal Brains Trust, a Kampala-based democracy and human rights watchdog. In March 2018, he was voted by members of the Uganda Law Society as the “Most Outstanding Advocate” in the category of Public Interest Lawyering. He is the go-to lawyer for Makerere University Academic Staff Association among other civic and political organizations.