MPs paid glowing tribute to the fallen Supreme court judge, Rubby Opio Aweri during Tuesday's special plenary. Aweri, 69, died on Wednesday, December 7 after succumbing to a stroke at Mulago National Referral hospital - bringing to an end to 39 years of what many of his allies described as his ‘distinguished judicial career.’
Aweri’s remains arrived at parliament in a casket adorned with the national flag. Speaker Anita Among and the government chief whip, Denis Hamson Obua received the casket before it was wheeled into the lobby and later into the chambers for a state funeral.
Dozens of MPs, ministers and high-ranking judicial officials led by chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo Chigamoi paid their last respect to the deceased judge during a plenary chaired by Among.
It followed a motion moved by premier Robinah Nabbanja for a resolution of parliament to pay tribute to the deceased judge. While seconding the motion, Mathias Mpuuga, the leader of opposition (LoP) described Aweri as an ‘exceptional’ career judicial officer whose tenure in the administration of justice dealt decisively with the backlog of court cases and implored other judicial officers to emulate him.
"The late served with exception and distinction and am aware he is one of the few that had very little backlog. That is an exception. Whereas we know the cause of case backlog, we also want to invite the judiciary to be alive to the concerns of the citizens when it comes to executing their mandate. The successor to the honourable gentleman should make sure that the work of the judiciary is executed without fear or favour," said Mpuuga.
Butembe County MP Livingstone David Zijjan also the dean of independent legislators seconded the premier’s motion and lauded the legacy of Aweri of denouncing corruption and apathy while he exercised his legal expertise as a tool to correct wrongs rather than a tool of persecution.
"Justice Rubby Opio Aweri dispensed justice with empathy, humility and integrity. He interpreted the law and used it as a tool of correction and not as a tool of persecution or oppression. Rt. Hon. speaker Uganda ought to be proud of him and the legacy that he leaves here behind. Justice Aweri decried the apathy and corruption in our institutions and as we send him off today, we owe him a better nation," said Zijjan.
Norbert Mao, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs who knew justice Aweri personally, expressed gratitude towards the deceased's humanity, capacity for hard work, and intolerance to corruption in the judiciary when he was named the ‘inspector of courts’ in 2017 until his death.
"We all remember his tough stance on corruption in the judiciary when he was named chief inspector of courts from 2017 until his death. Those of us who knew justice Opio Aweri personally were impressed with his humanity, his capacity for hard work and his seriousness of purpose. Judicial officers should see themselves not as wielders of judicial power and authority but rather as servants of justice in the broadest possible sense. We ask God to judge him with mercy as he approaches the throne of grace," said Mao.
The lawmakers amended the motion and proposed that key roads in the 15 newly created cities should be identified and named in memory of the departed Supreme court judge. They also proposed that a high-tech library be built at Lango college in Lira city, where the deceased had initiated a process of resource mobilization.
Speaker Among later adjourned the house sine-die after close to three hours of the plenary session. Aweri is scheduled to be buried on Friday, December 16 at his ancestral home in Acungapenyi Cell in Kachung Western Ward, Agwata town council in Dokolo district.
He was born in Dokolo district in 1953 to the late Samwiri Opio Aweri. He held a bachelor of Law and master of Law from Makerere University, and a diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre (LDC).
His career started in 1982, as a legal assistant in Soroti district. In 1983, Opio Aweri was appointed a grade one magistrate before he gradually rose through the ranks and in 1998, was appointed a judge of the High court. In 2014, he was promoted to the Court of Appeal before being elevated to the Supreme court in September 2015. In August 2017, the judiciary named him as the new chief inspector of courts on a three-year term.