8 July 2010

Uganda: New Immigration Board Head Appointed

Kampala — A former foreign affairs minister in Idi Amin's regime, Wanume Kibedi, is the new chairman of the Immigration and Citizenship Board.

The appointments committee of Parliament, presided over by Speaker Edward Ssekandi, approved the appointment in a closed-door meeting yesterday.

A source at the meeting said: "We did not find any problem with him. That is why we approved him."

The MPs were more concerned about how Kibedi intended to address the problems of illegal immigrants and the management of passports, the sources said.

Wanume Kibedi was the foreign minister when Amin expelled Asians from Uganda in 1972 ostensibly to ensure that the national economy was in the hands of indigenous Ugandans.

One of Kibedi's responsibilities was to defend the decision internationally.

Now, he takes over the immigration department at a time of growing concern about illegal immigrants, particularly from Asia.

"People are acquiring passports without proper documents. We asked him how he intends to solve those problems," the source said.

After the vetting, Kibedi, an advocate, sighted the need to strengthen the capacity of the immigration department so it can solve the challenges.

"Once we have the manpower, all these issues of illegal immigrants and passports will be solved," he said.

Asked what he had been doing, Kibedi answered: "I hope this is not the public accounts committee. What crime have I committed? I have been in my village and also working at my consultancy firm."

Kibedi replaces Jotham Tumwesigye, now a justice of the Supreme Court.

The committee also approved the appointment of the former Buganda Road Court chief magistrate, Catherine Bamugemereire, as a judge of the High Court.

It also approved the elevation of Justice Mary Arach Amoko to the Court of Appeal. Amoko had hitherto headed the Commercial Division of the High Court.

President Yoweri Museveni appointed them last month, together with eight others, but they did not appear before the committee for vetting.

During the vetting, an MP said members were concerned about the increasing cases of corruption in the Judiciary, case backlog and the management of rape victims.

Arach replaces Justice Christine Kitumba, who moved to the Supreme Court last year. In the same year, the President also appointed Dr. Esther Mayambala Kisakye to the Supreme Court.

Bamugemereire, an associate lecturer at the University of Surrey, UK, said she was happy to return and serve Uganda. She expressed concern about rape, especially the trauma that the victims go through. "I call it second rape. The victims should not be allowed to come face-to-face with the rapists, but through video links," she said.

To end corruption in the Judiciary, Arach said the Government needed to address the welfare of workers in the lower courts.

Who is Kibedi

Kibedi studied law in London and was appointed assistant administrator-general in the Ministry of Justice in 1968-1969.

That very year, he became an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. He later partnered with Binaisa and Company Advocates.

In 1971, Amin appointed him foreign affairs minister. He resigned in 1973 and fled into exile in the UK. Kibedi was among the first ministers to quit Amin's government, which had become notorious for killings, including that of Chief Justice Ben Kiwanuka.

While in the UK, Kibedi lectured at the College of Law in Lancaster in 1974. In 1975, he founded the Kibedi and Company Solicitors in London. In 1986, he was appointed ambassador and Uganda's permanent representative at the UN. He served for a few years and returned to private practice in London.

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