Its officially known Justice Bart Katurebe Magunda will (by virtue of age) cease to be Chief Justice mid next year. As has happened for his predecessors Benjamin Odoki and Stephen Kavuma, the law requires that Katurebe eases out the moment he clocks 70 which he is becoming next year.
In comparison to his precessors (especially Steven Kavuma), Katurebe has tried to lead with grace, dignity and humility.
Sources close to him say, the ailing CJ has emotionally prepared himself to voluntarily ease out when his day comes.
And he has lots of plans up his sleeves including retiring upcountry to oversee the operations of his lucrative tourist recreation facility on Lake Bunyonyi which his equally graceful wife is already overseeing.
Knowledgeable sources say the President, who ultimately decides who becomes CJ, has for some time been weighing the prospects of gifting Uganda with its pioneer female CJ.
And 50 year old Catherine Bamugemereire remains the most favored. Going by the assignments she has lately accomplished, Museveni considers the Lady Judge from Manafwa to be someone he can do business with at that level. Besides excellently satisfying the President in the way she handled the KCCA and UNRA public inquiries, Bamugemereire is strong in her own right.
She is well educated and hails from the right part of the country-Bugisu that no one can accuse of eating too much. They previously produced a Chief Justice in Masika of Obote II period.
Bamugemereire also has personal trust and connections with people who matter and are capable of emboldening any decision by the President. First Lady Janet Museveni is one of them.
Yet Museveni has previously showed public confidence in Catherine in ways he rarely does with other public officials including giving her a lift in his official car after a public function. The last time that happened was when he returned from Lusanja where the much-resented city businessman Medard Kiconco had brutally evicted hundreds of families.
As he went there to sympathize with families, Museveni called Bamugemereire who was expected to provide some solutions in her capacity as chairperson of the land commission of inquiry whose work has sold her across the country as “a people’s judge.”
Museveni, being on the steering himself, signalled Bamugemereire to join him and the two luxuriously drove to Entebbe State House, a journey that was broadcast live on TV. This portrayed her as powerful and trusted by the H.E. but it also caused enemies for Catherine who subsequently began being targeted by fellow judges.
Knowledgeable sources say the recent incident that saw Museveni provocatively reward soldiers who humiliatingly blocked Bamugemereire’s access to a certain army facility in Mutungo Hill is characteristic of how the President works.
“It was only meant to trim her a little bit so that when she is eventually made CJ, she will always remember where the real power lies. The big man is never comfortable with people getting positions when they are too powerful. He must always remain their savior. It was important to create that impression in her otherwise the plan to make her next CJ remains on table. It’s an option the President is still considering,” says a State House source who has worked with the President for long.
Unlike Katurebe who became CJ when he was 65 (making him eligible for only 5 years), Bamugemereire is just 50 meaning she can as well serve as CJ for as long as 20 years before becoming ineligible on grounds of age.