The high court has dismissed the application challenging the appointment of Fred Kanyangoga Bamwesigye as the Director General of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA). In his ruling delivered on Monday, Justice Musa Ssekaana said the appointment was “lawful and the process complied with the law”.
According to Justice Ssekaana, Bamwesigye “equally met the criteria set by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority and was eligible and suitably qualified to be shortlisted and appointed as Director General” of the authority. Bamwesigye took charge of UCAA in October 2021 following his appointment by the Minister for Works and Transport, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, as the substantive Director-General of UCAA on September 28.
He replaced Dr. David Mpango Kakuba, who retired in June 2020 and will serve for three years. Bamwesigye was among the 21 people who responded to an advertisement by the UCAA board of directors, chaired by retired Chief Justice Steven Kavuma, to fill the position of Director General. The board shortlisted seven people and interviewed them on May 14th, 2021. After the interviews, the board recommended three people to the works minister, including Bamwesigye, Olive Birungi Lumonya, and Tom David Wasswa, for an appointment. The minister selected Bamwesigye.
However, Jabbe Pascal Osinde Osudo protested the appointment and applied to the High Court for judicial review under Articles 42 and 50 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution and Rules 3,4, 6, and 7 of the Judicature (Judicial Review) Rules, 2009, among others.
Osudo wanted the court to make eleven declarations, including that Bamwesigye was ineligible for an appointment and that the said shortlisting and subsequent appointment were illegal, irregular, null and void. In his affidavit, Osudo faulted the minister and the board for ignoring the “glaring inconsistencies and contradictions” in Bamwesigye’s academic documents.
He explained that “without prejudice, whereas Fred Bamwesigye purports to have be November 27th 7th November 1967, the said result slip indicates that Kanyangoga Fred sat for P.L.E in 1976…by implication, Kanyagoga Fred had started primary one in January 1969 when he was still one year of age.”
He says Bamwesigye lowered his age because applicants had to be between 35 and 55 years of age. In the absence of a person with the requisite expertise and aviation experience to manage the said authority, which is inter alia charged with the provision of air navigation services, travelers’ lives are at risk, Osudo noted.
However, Brian Musota and Thomas Ocaya, who represented the ministry of works and UCAA respectively, argued that there was no illegality because the High Court Civil Suit No.110 of 2021 Magambo Mpumwire vs Fred Kanyangoga Bamwesigye conclusively determined the issue about Bamwesigye’s age. The lawyers asked the court to dismiss the application, saying Osudo was abusing the court process because he did not, among other things, state his role in the recruitment process.
Justice Ssekaana noted the need to protect courts from nosy former employees and “mere busybodies” who “challenge every minor or alleged minor infraction by the state or public officials.” “This is clogging and ‘choking’ the court system with all manner of applications for competition for fame or recognition.”
Ssekaana says Osudo brought the application as a regular traveler who has traveled with Uganda Airlines and intends to board the same in the future. “The applicant’s claim is not made or premised on the above assertion as a regular traveler with Uganda Airlines, but rather it is because he was a former employee of the Civil Aviation Authority and has developed a sense of entitlement to continue poking his nose in the internal affairs of the organization.” This court cannot use this as a standard to allow every frequent flyer to have sufficient interest to file applications for judicial review on matters which do not concern them within the Civil Aviation Authority… “This application would fail on this preliminary objection/point for lack of sufficient interest,” ruled Ssekaana.
He concurred with Musota and Ocaya that Bamwesigye’s correct age was already determined by High Court Judge Boniface Wamala on April 9th, 2021. Bamwesigye said his parents told him that he was born on November 27th, 1967. His Baptism Card of March 31st, 1972 also bears the same details.
“Bamwesigye, however, stated that at the time of registration for examinations, he mistakenly stated his date of birth as November 27th, 1963.” For the purpose of consistency, he maintained that date in all his academic and official documents before 2007. But on September 12th, 2007, he deponed to a statutory declaration correcting the mistake and reverting to his real birth date of November 27th, 1967, “part of the ruling reads.”
Ssekaana says this correction was done before Bamwesigye joined UCAA in 2009. He said that Osudo’s assertions “cannot be accurate for the simple reason that at the time the defendant made the alteration, he was neither an employee of UCAA or any public office that has been pointed out to the court, nor can it be reasonably concluded that he had anticipated that he would at one time need to “cling on” to an office in UCAA, contrary to the provision on the retirement age of 60 years.”