The family of the late Supreme Court Judge, Stella Arach Amoko will have to wait until next Tuesday when the court will rule on where she is to be buried.
The case is being presided over by High Court Judge Ketra Kitarisiibwa Katunguka who ordered the parties not to steal the body or remains of the deceased from A’plus where they are being kept.
Katunguka fixed June 27th, 2023 after hearing submissions from the two sides in a case that emerged following the death of Stella Arach Amoko a week ago.
The decision stemmed from a series of lengthy proceedings that started from early in the morning on Saturday until late evening. Stella Arach Amoko’s biological children and her siblings want her to be buried in Nebbi district while the deceased ‘s husband/widower Ambassador James Idule Amoko wants her buried in Adjumani District.
The children, Yossa Annette, Emmanuel Komakech, Jackie Amony, their uncle Godfrey Picho, and aunt Christine Onyok on Thursday filed an application against the Attorney General and Ambassador, Idule Amoko following a disagreement on where she should be buried.
The burial had been scheduled was to take place on Friday 23rd June. But it didn’t go on as planned after the Judiciary Chief Registrar, Sarah Langa Siu issued a statement indicating that the date had been postponed until further notice.
In the application, the children and the deceased siblings are seeking an order restraining the Government and Ambassador Idule Amoko from receiving, transporting, and burying, Stella Arach Amoko in Adjumani District.
They also want the court to be authorized to receive, transport, and bury the body at her ancestral home burial ground located at Jukiga Hill Ward, Juba village, Nebbi District in accordance with the customary law of ker kwaro Kaal Jonam.
They say in the event that the Government or Ambassador went ahead to bury Stella Arach in Adjumani, they should be authorized to exhume and rebury her in a place of her choice in Nebbi.
The parties were on Friday before Court and there was a proposal from Ambassador Amoko to have the deceased buried at neutral ground. He had suggested Arua Catholic cemetery but Stella Arach Amoko’s children and siblings rejected the idea after going through mediation.
The two sides returned to court on Saturday to report the outcome of the mediation.
The court decided to go through a full hearing of the main case after the mediation had failed.
The applicants’ lawyers comprised of Stanley Okecho, Pius Katumba Busobozi, and Roger Mugabi first asked for more time to allow them to look for a commissioner of oaths to sign on the affidavits supporting their application.
They said since it was a Saturday, they had not gotten one but they had contacted someone who was coming to commission them from the Court premises.
The judge allowed a break that lasted almost an hour as they waited for the Commissioner of Oaths.
Amoko’s lawyers led by Ernest Kalibala told Court that they had been served an affidavit in rejoinder with 53 paragraphs, rejoining to only 23 that their client had in his affidavit supporting his arguments to bury in Adjumani.
Ambassador Idule Amoko’s lawyers told the Court that they had been served an affidavit in rejoinder with 53 paragraphs, rejoining to only 23 that their client had in his affidavit supporting his arguments to bury in Adjumani.
However, he told Court that there is a matter that had just come to their attention that needed to be resolved first.
They were contesting the fact that the other applicants had sworn affidavits yet documents indicated that they had authorized Annette Yosa to swear an affidavit on their behalf in the matter.
Idule Amoko’s lawyer, Kalibala argued that the law is so clear that the four other applicants had ceded whatever interest they had and they couldn’t go ahead and swear independent affidavits again.
Kalibala asked the court to strike out the affidavits from the court record and allow the one sworn by Anita on behalf of other applicants
The lawyer for the applicants, Roger Mugabi in response argued that the opinion and prayers by Amoko’s lawyers were inviting the court to make are not grounded in law.
He said whereas it is true Arach’s sister gave authorization to Yossa Annette to depone affidavits in the application, that however doesn’t take away her rights to swear an affidavit in the same matter personally.
The Judge agreed with the lawyers representing the children and siblings of the late Stella Arach Amoko. Quoting the law of agency, she said a person cannot be stopped from clarifying the issues before Court unless they are disagreeing with the information they had authorized someone.
She said Idule Amoko doesn’t show how he will be prejudiced if the affidavits of Opicho and Onyok in rejoinder are left on the court record.
The Judge later proceeded to hear the main application and the children’s lawyers raised ten reasons as to why the burial of their mother and sister should take place in Nebbi.
The lawyers told Court that there was a consensus of what Idule Amoko described as a blended family for this burial venue in a meeting hosted and guided by himself at their Kinawataka home in the wake of the passing of Stella Arac Amoko. And that Idule Amoko is stopped from departing from the said family consensus.
“Amoko is further estopped by first conduct material of the matter at hand namely; the undisputed fact that two of his deceased former wives and mothers to some five children in his blended family were not buried in Adjumani, his burial grounds; contrary to his averments in paragraphs 13,14and 16 of his affidavit in reply,, said Mugabi.
Mugabi further told the court that the custom alleged in support of Adjumani venue is inexistent (doesn’t exist), unproven, and repugnant whereas the custom alleged in support of the Nebbi venue is duly proven and valid.
The court heard that the Nebbi venue is proved by the ascertainable wishes of the deceased and it is the most appropriate as a dignified last resting place of the deceased.
Mugabi told the court that there were other weightier grounds he didn’t reveal against the Adjumani venue argued by Amoko in his capacity as the spouse of the deceased. He said the applicants are wholly blameless in how this dispute arose.
The Court heard that the relationship between the children and the deceased is organic and natural, still growing since they will produce grand and great-grandchildren, whereas the relationship between Amoko and the deceased Arach is contractual and has now come to an end with her death.
Ambassador, Amoko’s lawyers led by Ernest Kalibala said the widower is the one entitled to bury the deceased because they lived together for more than 27 years and acquired property together in Adjumani.
Kalibala told Court that there is nothing repugnant about the customs talked about by the applicants in Adjumani and there is nothing that has been suggested that there will be anything unlawful, undesirable, or contrary to any law that will result from the court when it upholds the decision to bury in Adjumani.
Court heard that it is not good to say one’s deceased spouse will be taken away from him or her because of the wishes for biological children and siblings. He said it appears the underlying issue is between the Madi customs and the Adjumani customs.
Kalibala argued that there was no satisfactory evidence proved regarding the wishes of the deceased for the court to ascertain and there was no evidence to show that Nebbi is conflict-free or there are no decent burial grounds in Adjumani.
Simon Peter Kinobe prayed that Idule Amoko should be given the order to go and bury his sweetheart and in the interest of peace and harmony. He asked the court to order that each party bears its own costs.
The Attorney General represented by State Attorney Lydia Mugisa said the burial program that was issued was made under the guidance of Ambassador Idule Amoko who had lost his wife. Mugisa said the government has been working with the judiciary to release the program that was sent out to the public. She said the position was that the burial is halted until a final decision from the court is obtained.
Before the ruling can be delivered, Ambassador Amoko ‘s legal team asked the Court to give him letters and powers of Administration, a request that sent most people in court into laughter.
The proceedings were in a fully packed courtroom where media was barred from recording and filming.
Amoko died on June 17th 2023 at Nakasero Hospital. She had served the judiciary and government as a whole for a combined total of 44 years