728 x 90

You are here

Primary tabs

Professor Oloka-Onyango delivers inaugural lecture on GHOSTS AND THE LAW

  • In
  • 18 Nov 2015 - 1:03pm
  • By Mark Wamai
  • 5,777
Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango (2nd Left) assisted by the Acting Principal, School of Law, Dr. Damalie Naggita Musoke (2nd Right) and flanked by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu (Left) and DVCAA, Dr. Ernest Okello Ogwang (Right) shows off his plaque shortly after delivering his Inaugural Professorial Lecture-GHOSTS AND THE LAW, 12th November 2015, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

On 12th November 2015, the Vice Chancellor awarded Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango a plaque and certificate in commemoration of his fundamental duty as a full Professor of Makerere University.

Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango gave an inaugural lecture titled, Ghosts and the Law, in which he revealed that the Ugandan law has long been haunted by ghosts, which take on varied shapes and sizes as the Common law itself. He nevertheless remained hopeful that one day, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) will eventually triumph, leading to reconciliation between the two ghosts; one backward-looking in support of extra-constitutional overthrow of government, and another which aspires for the protection of fundamental human rights, with the hope that the good one will prevail over her evil sibling.

“As we celebrate 20 years of the 1995 Constitution and approach the 50th anniversary of the decision in the case, it is the most appropriate time to look back and consider which of the ‘twins’ of the ‘Ghost of ex parte Matovu’ has been most successful in influencing the Ugandan body politic.  What does the future portend for the life of these fraternal twins?”

The drums sounded as the Vice Chancellor’s procession comprising the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, Ag. Principal-School of Law and academicians clad in gowns, led Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango to the Main Hall, amidst a colourful performance from the Mak Department of Performing Arts and Film.

The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu welcomed the audience comprising invited guests, the family of Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango, intellectuals/scholars, staff, students, the legal fraternity and well-wishers to the Joe Oloka-Onyango inaugural lecture. He thanked the audience that filled the Main Hall to full capacity for braving the heavy rains.

Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango delivers his Inaugural Professorial Lecture GHOSTS AND THE LAWThe Vice Chancellor highlighted that Inaugural lectures are a central part of the University’s academic life.  “These events are held to commemorate the inaugural lecturer's appointment to full professorship. Today’s inaugural lecture provides a platform for the academic (Prof. Oloka-Onyango) to present the body of research that he has been focusing on during his career,” said Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu.

The Acting Principal-School of Law, Dr. Damalie Naggita Musoke officially introduced Professor Joe Oloka Onyango to the audience. Prof. Oloka-Onyango’s credentials speak of a distinguished career in the Law profession as an academic. He has served the School of Law Makerere University as a Dean in the then Faculty of Law as well as Director of the Human Rights and Peace Centre. He is also an active litigant and human right activist and has served as a Special Rapporteur on Globalization and Human Rights of the United Nations. He has been a visiting Professor at a number of Universities that include the University of Cape Town, Oxford and United Nations University in Tokyo.

He spent his sabbatical 2014/2015 as a Full Bright Professor at George Washington University in the USA and Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies (STIAS) in South Africa.

Professor Oloka Onyango is widely published and some of his most recent publications include; Battling over Human Rights: Twenty Essays on Law, Politics and Governance (Laanga Publishing, 2015); When Courts Do Politics (Cornell University, Debating Love, Politics and Identity in East Africa: The Case of Kenya an d Uganda among others.

With such an admirable profile, Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango clad in full academic regalia energetically moved from the high table to the Podium to address the captivated audience. Professor Oloka-Onyango paid tribute to his late father, Bernard Onyango who always emphasized that one is proven a Professor only after delivering an inaugural lecture. Prof. Oloka-Onyango acknowledged his parents for setting the standard for excellence in all spheres of life very high. His mother, Mrs. Lucy Onyango attended the inaugural lecture. He also appreciated the constant inspirational support of his wife, Professor Sylvia Tamale, Children Kwame Sobukwe Ayepa and Samora Okech Sanga and his in-laws from the Nkima Clan.

A proud Mother-Mrs. Lucy Onyango (Left) and Wife-Prof. Sylvia Tamale (Right) witnessed firsthand as Prof. Oloka Onyango delivered his Inaugural LectureDuring his presentation on the Ghosts and the Law, Professor Oloka-Onyango explained the various instances when the Law is inflicted with ghostly situations quoting the case of ex parte Matovu as illustrated in the case Uganda v. Commissioner of Prisons, ex parte Matovu, whose case will make 50 years in 2017. He said although dead, ex parte Matovu is still a domineering presence in the law, with effects being felt in all branches of study or practice. He explored the relationship between the law, politics and society and the impact that connection has on the protection of Human Rights, specifically constitutionalism.

In his presentation, Professor Oloka-Onyango explored situations how we get ghosts in the Law, the Political question Doctrine and how it contrasts with Public interest Litigation as a form of change-oriented and socially-conscious lawyering. He said the legislature has continued to concentrate on the Political Question Doctrine and in this way deny the populace their economic, social and cultural rights.

Emphasizing the need to do away with the Ghosts in the Law, Prof. Oloka-Onyango shared powerful quote from Okot p’Bitek, Song of Lawino:

“ The smell of carbolic soap;
  Makes me sick;
   And the smell of powder
  Provokes the ghosts in my head;
  It is necessary to fetch a goat;
  From my mother’s brother;
  The sacrifice over;
  The ghost-dance drum must sound;
  The ghost be laid;
  And my peace restored.”


Prof. Oloka-Onyango mentioned particular cases that further enlightened the audience on how Ugandan law has long been haunted by ghosts.  

“All these are the ‘Ghosts of History Past, Present and Future.’  In the arena of Constitutional Law and governance the ghost appears in the form of the Political Question Doctrine (PQD), a concept most associated with the 1966 High Court decision, Uganda v. Commissioner of Prisons, ex parte Matovu,” he said.

“But as with all spiritual beings—such as the Roman God, Janus—there are two sides to the case.  In other words, there are not just one but (at least) two ghosts of ex parte Matovu.  There is the backward-looking one which supported the extra-constitutional overthrow of government in 1966 and paved the way for military dictatorship, judicial restraint and conservatism.   And in the same case, there is its reverse which “jettisoned formalism” to the winds, overruled legal “technicalities,” and underlined the need for the protection of fundamental human rights.  The jettisoning formalism decision eventually opened the way to a robust and growing industry of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Uganda.”

Makerere University Management, Staff and Academia pose with Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango (Centre) shortly after he delivered his Inaugural Professorial Lecture, 12th November 2015

Fortunately, Prof. Oloka-Onyango provided hope to Ugandans and the world at large when he pointed out that the “good ghost” fought back taking on the form of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and the quest for democratic constitutionalism.

He shared with the audience the battle between the Political Question Doctrine and Public Interest Litigation  that mainly centres around the status of economics, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) and on other issues in which the Judiciary is too timid to directly confront the Executive and Parliament.
“That battle brings the two ghosts of ex parte Matovu into head-on collision, i.e. The one which allows the government to escape all its obligations to ensure that human rights are respected, and the other which underlines the point that the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights also attaches the State,” he said.

Ending his presentation, Prof. Oloka-Onyango remained hopeful that Public Interest Litigation will one day triumph.

“Hopefully, in this battle over destiny, Public Interest Litigation will eventually triumph. That should lead to reconciliation between the two ghosts with the good one of them prevailing over her evil sibling,” he remarked.
Still basking in the spotlight of this academic milestone, Prof. Oloka-Onyango commended the personalities who inspired him to become an academic. He acknowledged Frederick Jjuuko, Deogratius Mabirizi, the Late Richard Kiwanuka (RIP) and George Okoth Obbo who interested him in academic teaching and research.

Prof. Oloka Onyango's Learned Friends and Members of Management joined him to celebrate his historic achievement

He made mention of his classmates that included Kenneth Kakuru (now Court of Appeal Justice), Richard Musajja Karyegesa, the late Patrick Karegeya and Donald Nyakairu whom he described as his first intellectual co-travelers.
Commenting on the inaugural lecture presentation, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Professor John Ddumba-Ssentamu agreed with Prof. Oloka-Onyango that we indeed had ghosts in the law.

Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu noted that the lecture provided an in-depth exploration of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers that is the relationship between the three arms of government, namely, the Executive (the President and Cabinet), the Legislature, and the Judiciary.  He observed that Prof. Oloka-Onyango’s study calls for particular attention to the courts of law and their obligations when faced with issues to do with the protection of human rights.

Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu upheld the fact that the Constitution is the most important legal document of the very many laws, regulations and statutes that we have in Uganda.  Thus Prof. Onyango’s lecture underscored the important place in which Constitutional Law should be placed when considering matters to do with governance, human rights and the improved social well-being of Ugandan society.  

“I take this opportunity to thank Prof. Onyango for his profound insights and for having greatly educated us on the various aspects of Constitutional Law doctrine.  The lecture was a multi-disciplinary intellectual tour covering a wide range of subjects from Literature to Philosophy,” proclaimed the Vice Chancellor amidst applause from the audience.

The inaugural lecture was also graced by members of the Judiciary that included Her Lordship, Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza of the Supreme Court, Justices Kenneth Kakuru and Stephen Egonda-Ntende from Court of Appeal.

Prof. Oloka Onyango's students too shared his limelight

“As a teacher and a researcher, I have variously drawn inspiration from colleagues like Mahmood Mamdani, Busingye Kabumba, Sallie Simba Kayunga, Ben Shokoro Twinomugisha, Frederick Egonda-Ntende, J.J. Barya, James Gathii, Celestine Nyamu, among many other’’ said Prof. Oloka-Onyango.

The lecture was organized by the Office of the Vice Chancellor, spearheaded by Dr. Okello Ogwang-the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Mr. Alfred Masikye Namoah, The Academic Registrar and the Inaugural Lecture Committee consisting of: Prof. Elly N. Sabiiti-Chairperson, and members that include, Prof. Oswald Ndoleriire, Prof. Ruth Mukama, Prof. David Bakibinga, Prof. H. Oryem-Origa and Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi.

Please see Downloads for Full Presentation

Article by Mak Public Relations Office and School of Law Communications Office

Downloads & Essential Attachments

Liked it? Share it..