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Bart Katureebe chronicles life’s journey, trials in candid memoir

Bart Katureebe autographs his book for Kampala Archbishop Paul Semogerere as former vice president Specioza Kazibwe looks on

Bart Katureebe autographs his book for Kampala Archbishop Paul Semogerere as former vice president Specioza Kazibwe looks on

Former Chief Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe has released his memoir, titled "My life: Turbulent Times and Service in the Three Branches of Government".

The book written with simplicity and frankness, chronicles Katureebe’s illustrious career, recounting his life from a goat herder’s boy in Bunyaruguru to public service in the three branches of government that saw him rise to head the judicial branch of government as chief justice.

During the launch of the book at Kampala Serena hotel last week, which was attended by esteemed dignitaries in Uganda’s political and legal circles, there was a reading session of excerpts from the book that had his wife Bernadette Katureebe reminisce about how they met, while his Makerere University law school classmate Olara Otunnu recounted their school days, and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi on their early days of service during the turbulent times of the country.

While addressing his guests, Katureebe said the purpose of writing this book is to put on record not just his own beginnings but also the beginnings of the people of Bunyaruguru, who were always seen as a minority in the Ankole region.

"Sometimes it is difficult for someone to appreciate growing up as a minority because, coming from Bunyarugru, you are in Ankole, but people say you are not a Munyankore but rather a Munyaruguru. When I write about these experiences, I want people to understand what those who come from these minority groups have gone through,” he said.

He also noted that in writing about some of the turbulent history he has gone through as a person, family, and country, some of which nearly took his life and almost forced him into exile, he hopes that those who read the book and others that have been written by those who fought in the Luweero bush war and the 1979 war will make sure that the country never goes through such times again.

“We hope that when people read these stories, they are a microcosm of what has gone wrong, and hopefully future readers will say this must not happen again. But it is not all gloom, and I hope reading it gives everyone the entertainment value that I believe is within,” he added.

“My service was always focused. When I was appointed minister, I nearly refused it, but I got persuaded to proceed. When I had finished my five years as attorney general, though I was persuaded to seek reappointment, I refused because I felt I had done what I needed to do; I had made my mistakes and my successes and wanted to go back to private practice, which I did. Later, the Law Society wrote to me to become a judge, which I was also hesitant about, but I became a judge, then chief justice, I retired, and now I am home,” Katureebe concluded.

Speakers at the event, including former vice president Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, lauded Katureebe for his dedication and integrity during his time of service to the country. Owiny-Dollo described his predecessor as an admirable man of great humility who is driven by his conscience and conviction.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Katureebe in all three arms of government as a colleague in cabinet, a member of parliament, and an immediate subordinate in the judiciary. The fact that a chief justice is admirably humble is something rare. He has demonstrated it; it emanates from him, but beneath and camouflaged by that great humility is a persona made of steel. I was privileged to be his immediate subordinate as deputy chief justice; he mentored me, and that is how I became the first deputy chief justice in this country to climb to the position of chief justice,” Dollo said.

Katureebe’s guest of honour was Amos Wako, a former Kenyan attorney general and senator. Wako served as attorney general in Kenya at the time Katureebe held the same office in Uganda; Wako also worked with Katureebe on treaties binding the East African Community.

He described Katureebe, whom he fondly calls BK, as an honourable man, highly professional, adhering to the highest standards of professional conduct and ethics, an honest man of integrity, a very calm and humble person, a family person, and a man you could depend on, who has always been truthful and honest, hence where he is and what he has done.

On a private note, he revealed the origin of his friend Katureebe’s name. “His parents had lost children before Katureebe was born. They gave him the name Katureebe, meaning “let’s see if he will survive”.

He not only survived as a child but also survived the most difficult and turbulent times in Uganda, which caused his family to split as he went to exile in Kenya. He first settled in Busia, where I served as senator for 10 years,” Wako said.

Guests at the event had the opportunity to have the author autograph the book for them. It is published by Elite Publishers and is now available in major bookshops in the country.

KATUREEBE AT A GLANCE

He was born on June 20, 1950, in Rugazi village, Rubirizi district, in the Western region of Uganda, to Yowana Magunda and Virginia Ngonzi.

He went to Rugazi primary school for his elementary schooling from 1957 until 1962. He then went to St. Joseph Junior Secondary School in Mbarara from 1963 to 1964 and Kitunga High School in Ntungamo district for his O-Level from 1965 until 1968. He attended Namilyango College for his A-level education from 1969 to 1970.

Four years later, he graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor of Laws degree. He went on to receive a diploma in legal practice from the Law Development Centre.

From 1975 until 1983, Katureebe worked as a state attorney in the ministry of Justice. From 1983 until 1988, he practiced law in a private setting.

From 1988 until 1991, he served as the deputy minister for Regional Cooperation, then deputy minister of Industry and Technology (1991 to 1992), and state minister for health and a member of the National Resistance Council, a legislative body at that time (1992 to 1996). From 1994 until 1995, he was an elected member of the Constituent Assembly representing
Bunyaruguru county.

From 1996 until 2001, he served as the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and attorney general. He went back to private practice in 2001, becoming one of the founding partners of Kampala Associated Advocates. Chambers Global named him one of Uganda’s leading lawyers in 2004, and he also served as board chairman of the Vision Group and served on Standard Chartered bank’s board of directors.

He was appointed a justice of the Supreme court in 2005, and on March 5, 2015, he was appointed chief justice. On June 20, 2020, he marked his last day in office as chief justice of the Republic of Uganda and handed over to his deputy, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, to be the acting chief justice.

On December 8, 2020, he was appointed as a member of the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme Court of the People’s Republic of China for a four-year contract, which runs until December 8, 2024. He has been married to Bernadette for 46 years, with whom they have six children.

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