Uganda: Don’t Blame Me for Bail Law, Says Odoki

Former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki has responded to accusations that his Constitutional Review Commission ignored views that recommended bail not be granted to suspects facing certain offences.

This comes after President Museveni last week shifted the blame to the Constituent Assembly (CA) that “debated our report for two full years and came to that conclusion on bail.”

In an interview yesterday, Justice Odoki said the commission only made recommendations to the CA whose members were elected by the people to represent them.

The former chief justice also said the representatives should have asked the public whether the stand on bail was right before adopting it in the 1995 Constitution.

He added that the Constitution is not static and it can be amended when need arises.

“The Constitution is not a statute as it can be subject to interpretation, expansion, clarity and amendments. Even now, some people are saying bail should not be given, others are saying it should be given,” said Justice Odoki.


“The debate will continue and I don’t know how it will end – whether in a referendum – but it’s healthy,” he said.

Last week President Museveni singled him out for the current state of bail terms.

“There is a way [Justice Odoki] suppressed our line, which is the line of the masses,” the President said while addressing judges at the fourth Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture.

Mr Museveni added that he checked the minutes of the Constitutional Review Commission and discovered that people did not want bail for certain offences.

“But when his lordship [Odoki] wrote his final report, they brought in this thing of giving discretion to the Judiciary to give bail or not even in capital offences… We have been told that bail is a right. Really?” he said.

Justice Odoki, however, said the recommendations that were presented to the CA were not personal and promised that the matter would be resolved amicably. In 1989, Justice Odoki was appointed chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission.

The Odoki commission was mandated to collect views of the public and prepare a draft constitution for Uganda. The draft was debated and adopted by an elected CA in 1995.

Elections were held in Uganda on March 28, 1994 to pick 214 of the 284 CA delegates.

These would be tasked with drawing up the country’s new constitution.

Although all candidates formally run as independents, it was estimated that 146 of the 214 elected members were representatives of the NRM. The 68 were viewed as Opposition-leaning.

A further 70 members were appointed with each registered political party nominating two members and each of the 39 districts nominating a female representative.

Ten other members were nominated by the army, four by the National Youth Council, two by the National Organisation of Trade Unions, and one by the National Union of Disabled People.

This saw the promulgation of the new constitution with the presidential and parliamentary elections being held in 1996.


President Museveni last week re-echoed his wish to have bail for suspected capital offenders, especially those facing murder, scrapped or have the accused persons first stay on remand for the mandatory 180 days before being released on bail. The President clashed with Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo over the matter, saying the practice is provoking the public who have since started resorting to mob action to resolve disputes in their communities.Mr Museveni said he would instead find a political solution to the matter.

“Really!, somebody has killed a person and you see him walking around, that is a provocation I am telling you. It’s a provocation, we can’t accept it,” he said. However, in response, the Chief Justice said: “The Constitution gives discretion to judicial officers to grant bail but the exercise of discretion must be judiciously done. A judicial officer cannot wake up from the wrong side of the bed and deny bail to an applicant or wake up from the right side of their bed and grant bail.”

“We know that capital offences are a grave concern to the community, so in exercise of judicial discretion, it’s the duty of the judicial officer to look at all these circumstances and make a decision whether to grant or not to grant,” he added. During his national address last Friday, the President again warned the Judiciary and police against granting bail and bond to murder suspects.

“On the side of bail, we are going to discuss with all the stakeholders the NRM caucus people, the wananchi(citizens), in the country side and Judiciary to see how we stop bail being used to cover criminals,”Mr Museveni said.

The right to bail is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution. In Article 28, it states that an accused person is to be presumed innocent until he/she is proved or he/she pleads guilty.


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Author : Monitor

Publish date : 2021-10-05 07:14:30

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