Firebrand Appeals Judge Kenneth Kakuru Dies At 65

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Justice Kenneth Kakuru, a top Judge in the Court of Appeal of Uganda is dead.

Justice Kenneth Kakuru’s death has been announced by the Chief Justice of Uganda and Head of the Judiciary, Justice Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo.

Citing family sources, the Chief Justice said the firebrand Judge whose name is synonymous with Judicial courage passed on Tuesday Morning in the Nairobi-based Aga Khan Hospital at Age 65.


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According to the Monitor newspaper, Justice Kenneth Kakuru has been battling advanced prostate cancer and at the time of his death had actually expressed the desire to retire.

“Justice Kakuru has been a valued member of the Bench since his appointment on July 4th 2013 and will be greatly missed.”

The Chief Justice said.

“ He was through his actions and Judgements, a human rights defender par excellence.”

He added.

A beacon of Judicial activism, Justice Kenneth Kakuru consistently delivered out-of-the-box Judgements.


One such Judgement was his rejection of the lifting of the Constitutional age limit to allow Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to contest for the presidency having reached the set age limit of 75 at the time.

Among other reasons, Justice Kenneth Kakuru said such an action was out of sync with the philosophy of the Constitution’s framers which sought to avert a repeat of Uganda’s checkered history by putting such safeguards against life presidency in place.  

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More recently, Justice Kenneth Kakuru ruled against the trial of civilians in military courts, and he outlawed Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act which criminalized so-called offensive communication.

Prior to joining the Judicial bench, Justice Kenneth Kakuru was a lawyer in private practice at his personal law firm Kakuru & Co Advocates.

Even then, the deceased learned Judge engaged in public interest-focused litigation.

For example, his Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Greenwatch – founded to advance the cause of environmental protection – sued the Government of Uganda in 2009 over the Government’s refusal to grant the NGO and members of the Public access to contract documents relating to oil business between the Government of Uganda and Tullow Oil company – something the NGO said violated the right to access information.

In that case, Government argued that such documents could not be shared because they contained “confidentiality clauses” – meaning they could not be shared.

Agreeing with Justice Kenneth Kakuru’s NGO which was represented by his law firm, Court ruled that a confidentiality clause in a contract by itself doesn’t vitiate a Constitutional right.

That Government would have to demonstrate that disclosure of such information would be against the public interest, state security, or sovereignty – hence creating a gateway for citizens to access information on key matters that would otherwise be locked behind confidentiality clauses and Non-Disclosure Agreements.

An inspiring Judge, Justice Kenneth Kakuru spared time to speak to law students, attend their events and inspire them to use the legal tools at their disposal to foster change in the community.

In one such event I attended at Makerere University School of Law years ago – long before founding The Legal Reports, Justice Kenneth Kakuru asked the law students what they wanted to become.

“ What do you want to do after here? Do you just want to graduate, practice law, marry, have children and then die? ”

For some reason, those words have never left my mind.

He will dearly be missed!

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