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Uganda's Government Accused of Blocking the Re-election of Judge to African Court

Judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights over the weekend concluded their ninth ordinary meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. The court has the responsibility to rule on African countries' compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Re-appointment of the Court's 11 judges is expected to take place at next month's African Union Summit in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt.

One of the judges, George Kanyeihamba, of Uganda is claiming that the Ugandan government is blocking his re-election.

An article in the Uganda Monitor newspaper earlier this month quoted Ugandan foreign ministry officials as saying that Judge might use his position at the African Peoples' Court to embarrass the Ugandan government because of its human rights record. Judge Kanyeihamba told VOA the Monitor article is accurate.

"The story as written in the paper seems to be true, but I want to clarify that when the rumors started circulating, I talked to the minister responsible for foreign affairs and he denied that he had any knowledge of anyone or any moves to block my re-election to the African Court. Those who have been following this matter tell me that this matter, indeed the prime minister himself say that before it is over, it has to be considered by the cabinet. So I am waiting to see whether indeed that is the position," he said.

Kanyeihamba said Ugandan Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kidhu Makubuya both wrote letters to the African Union Commission supporting his candidature for re-election.

Judge Kanyeihamba denied any suggestion that the government might be trying to block his re-election because the role he might have played in the Ugandan Supreme Court's decision pertaining to a petition brought by opposition leader Kizza Besigye to nullify the election of President Yoweri Museveni in 2001 and 2006.

"Let me also clarify that. The government has never had any problem with my dissenting judgment. Incidentally there was a mistake in the 2001 petition appeal. Only five judges participated because we were seven, it had to be a quorum of either five or seven. I did participate in the 2006 petition appeal and indeed I was one of the three judges that dissented and said that may be the breaches of the law concerned and the event that had taken place during the election were sufficient for us to say the election should be nullified and we should hold another one," Kanyeihamba.

He said he deserves to be re-elected because he has made enormous contribution to protecting human rights not only in Uganda but around Africa.

"Many people in Uganda believe that I have made contributions to this country and to the region, and I deserve to continue advising Africa on human rights affairs. They think that I have something to contribute to the African jurisprudence, of human rights, and of international law," he said.

Kanyeihamba said he has no doubt that he would be re-elected if his candidature came before the African Union. But he said in order for that to happen, it must first be supported by the Ugandan government.

He said the matter of his re-election has gone much higher from the Ugandan foreign ministry to possibly the Ugandan cabinet.

"Remember it is the ministry of foreign affairs which has been trying to block my re-election, according to the news article. But it is now much higher than that. As I told you the Prime Minister say it may have to go to the cabinet. So I think it is now being considered by authorities higher than the minister concerned. The only think I can say, which obviously is a barrier is that as far as the AU Commission is concerned, they only get messages of Uganda through the ministry of foreign affairs. So if foreign affairs would continue to sabotage my candidature, the African Union Commission would be in a quandary," he said.

Judge Kanyeihamba said he was surprised that his re-election must now be approved by the Ugandan cabinet when, he said, the cabinet had nothing to with his election. Kanyeihamba hoped Ugandan President Museveni would step in to quickly resolve the issue of his re-election.