Kampala, Uganda | URN | Lady Justice Mary Stella Arach Amoko of the Supreme Court is dead. Arach passed away on Saturday 17, June 2023 at around 4.00 am aged 69 years at Nakasero Hospital.
Lady Justice Arach was left with only one year to retire as a judicial officer of the Supreme Court. She has reportedly been battling cancer for a long time.
Arach with vast experience in the legal profession worked previously as a state attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers and rose through the ranks to a commissioner for civil litigation between 1979 to 1997.
She served as a High court judge for 13 years from 1997 to 2010 prior to her elevation to the Court of Appeal. Prior to this, she also served at the East African Court of Justice, from 2006 until 2008, as a judge and from 2008 until 2013, as a deputy principal judge of the First Instance Division.
In 2010 she was among the candidates considered by the Judicial Service Commission who applied for appointment as the Chief Justice of Uganda. Between 15 April 2018 and 14 April 2020, Arach-Amoko served as the chairperson of the nine-member Management Committee of Uganda’s Law Development Centre.
In her career, she has presided over several cases both criminal and civil cases, election matters, and presidential election matters.
Meanwhile, members of the legal fraternity in the country are paying glowing tribute to the late Supreme Court Judge Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko.
The Minister of Justice, Norbert Mao in a message said; “Coming soon after we lost Justices Kenneth Kakuru and Opio Aweri, this is such a heartbreaking blow to the Judiciary. I convey heartfelt condolences to the family of Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko, the Chief Justice, and the entire Judiciary. Uganda has lost a first-rate Judge
Judicial officers including Judges and Magistrates that Uganda Radio Network has spoken to have described Justice Arach Amoko as a soft-spoken but thorough Judge.
The Attorney General of Uganda, Kiryowa Kiwanuka who spent many years in private practice before joining the bar said he appeared before Justice Stella Arach Amoo several times be it at the High Court, Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court.
Kiryowa Kiwanuka further said Arach Amoko was always humble, courteous, and soft-spoken but indeed very firm.
“She would put her point across without raising her voice. She had a very good grasp of the law and the rules having risen in the ranks from being a State Attorney to the Supreme Court. She was always motherly and guided counsel politely,” said Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
Kiryowa Kiwanuka said her soft-spoken character and humility made him and other lawyers always comfortable appearing before her.
The head of the bar Kiryowa Kiwanuka who also worked with Justice Arach Amoko in the Judicial Service Commission said she was a very easy person to work with.
“She always listened intently and was slow to interrupt and when she spoke it was clear she had grasped the points so well. Her guidance was always on point. She will be dearly missed. May her soul rest in eternal peace”, said Kiwanuka.
Lawyer and Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago has described Amoko as a soft-spoken, level-headed, and venerable jurist or sage who endeavored to uphold the judicial oath under very challenging circumstances.
“You will be dearly missed Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko. May your soul rest in eternal peace,” said Lukwago.
High Court Judge Tadeo Asiimwe, also the President of the Uganda Judicial Officer’s Association has said the death of Justice Arach is terrible news for the Judiciary.
Asiimwe has described the deceased as a rare Judge, an embodiment of many attributes who served with calmness and distinction and a good mentor to many in the judiciary.
The head of the High Court’s Civil Division, Justice Musa Ssekaana said Arach encouraged him to join the bench after identifying him from private practice.
“I refused and I told her I’m still making some money in private practice. Later in 2015, she asked again and I told her I will think about it and discussed it with my wife. I accepted and she was my referee. She has always guided me on all the complicated cases,” Ssekaana told Uganda Radio Network.
Ssekaana adds that he had planned to write a poem i honor of the fallened Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko.
Unfortunately, the Poem titled “A Toast to Stellar Performance” will not be recited in her honor while she is alive.
According to Ssekaana, it should have celebrated her unwavering service of balance and Fairness, as a mentor, a judicial mother, a friend, and everything.
The High Court Registrar, Faisal Mukasa who is attached to the Judicial Training Institute said that when Arach was the Chairperson of the Law Development Centre(LDC) management committee, she initiated so many reforms including the creation of regional campuses at Mbarara and Lira so as to decongest Kampala Campus.
Mukasa says that in the 1990s when Stella Arach Amoko was at the Commercial Court, she was instrumental in the framing of the Intellectual property law, Banking and Insurance laws.
He remembers her as having been part of the team that reviewed the Mortgage Act enacted in 2009.
He said it is because of Arach that the law also gave full recognition of women on matters affecting them regarding properties.
Justice Mukasa said her rulings in the Reverend Bakaluba Mukasa and Betty Namboze election petition stand out among her rulings.
The ruling was appealed against but the Supreme Court wrote back affirming her exact judgment saying that she was right with her decision in that election matter.
“She had a vast experience as a draftswoman while in the Parliamentary Council. She did her work with a lot of simplicity, courtesy, and with a big eye for detail. If you winked on the wrong edge of her pen, you would see her judgment. She spearheaded the review of the curriculum when the failure rate was high and overwhelming at LDC”, said Mukasa.
According to Mukasa, Arach advised that matters related to colonialism be expunged from the LDC curriculum and she was also the brains behind the licensing of so many universities to teach law as the Law Development Centre wanted a monopoly. “She was a top super legal icon”, Mukasa said.
Lady Justice Susan Okalany said Arach was a motherly and sisterly woman, an accomplished jurist and a mentor of many in the bar and bench.
The sorrowful Okalany told this publication that with Arach’s characteristic calm manner, she would tell one her thoughts about an issue that she disagreed with you about.
“She was stylish too! Loved to dress elegantly! She was willing to train and coach others. During our orientation as newly appointed judges, following a discussion on judgment writing, l remember her telling us: “Just because you must apply the law does not mean that you will throw common sense out of the window. Her demise is devastating. She was a cool, calm and collected Judge!,”said Okalany
Gladys Kamasanyu the Chief Magistrate at the Standards Utilities and Wildlife Court has described the news about the passing of Justice Arach Amoko as so disturbing.
“It is a huge loss to us as the judiciary family and the country at large. She was an icon for justice, a mentor and mother to many. Wherever I met her, she was Mother. I all the time called her Mother and she responded, “Yes, my daughter,” with a sweet smile. I will miss her,”said Kamasanyu.
Abubaker Hassan Matanda, the Grade One Magistrate at Kibuku Magistrates Court says he will remember Arach for staying true to the judicial oath: “dispensing justice without fear, favor, and malice or will ill.”
“To the late Hon. Lady Justice, it didn’t matter who you were, if you were on the wrong side of the law, she would say so, and vice versa’” said Matanda.
Lawyer, Hamidu Lugoloobi who has severally appeared before the fallen judge at various courts said she will be missed.
“She exercised forbearance under provocation, her ability to know and apply the legal rules, understanding procedures to different facts and circumstances, her ability to quickly perceive and comprehend new concepts was insurmountable and it will forever be missed,”said Lugoloobi.
According to lawyer Caleb Alaka, Arach’s allegiance was to the law and as a result, she made groundbreaking Judgments.
“She served with absolute integrity. She was outstandingly brilliant and was deeply knowledgeable about the law, even when she was a judge of the High Court, it was hard for her decisions to be overturned by the Appellate Courts. We shall miss her” said Alaka.
The head of Litigation at the Electoral Commission Eric Sabiiti who says he has appeared before the deceased 59 times says the country has lost one of the greatest judicial icons.
Sabiiti says Arach’s understanding of the law and application was exceptional and her jurisprudence will leave a test of time.
Stella Arach Amoko was among the judges that heard the presidential election petition No. 1 of 2021. And her emphasis on the timelines in election petitions was pronounced.
State Attorney, Timothy Amerit from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said Arach has been an extraordinary thinker and has been matchless in delivering thoughtful and well-reasoned rulings and judgments. .
The Judiciary is yet to announce the official program for her Burial. Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera who announced Arach’s death said in a statement that the Judiciary has lost an extraordinary jurist who has been a champion of justice.
Arach becomes the second justice of the Supreme Court to die in less than a year. About six months ago, the Supreme court also lost justice Rubby Opio Aweri. Earlier, Constitutional court justice Kenneth Kakuru also passed on in Nairobi Kenya.
Who was the late Supreme Court Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko
Stella Arach Amoko born in 1954, with vast experience in the legal profession worked previously as a State Attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers and rose through the ranks to a Commissioner for Civil Litigation between 1979 to 1997.
She served as a High Court Judge for thirteen years from 1997 to 2010 prior to her elevation to the Court of Appeal.
Prior to this, she also served at the East African Court of Justice, from 2006 until 2008, as a judge and from 2008 until 2013, as a Deputy Principal Judge of the First Instance Division.
In 2010 she was among the candidates considered by the Judicial Service Commission who applied for appointment as the Chief Justice of Uganda.
Between 15 April 2018 until 14 April 2020, Justice Arach-Amoko served as the Chairperson of the nine-member Management Committee of Uganda’s Law Development Centre.
In her career, she has presided over several cases both criminal and civil cases, election matters, and Presidential election matters including Amama Mbabazi’s petition and Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu’s petition all against Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as the President of Uganda.
Arach is survived with children and a husband Ambassador Amoko