Court clears minister Kitutu to travel abroad

Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu while in court

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The High Court in Kampala has granted permission for Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Gorreti Kitutu Kimono to travel to both the United Kingdom and Dubai.

The decision was made by Anti-Corruption Court Judge Lady Justice Jane Okuo Kajuga on Friday 6, October 2023. This ruling came as a result of Kitutu’s successful application to modify her bail terms, which had been imposed in relation to charges of abuse of office.

Kitutu, along with her brother, Michael Naboya Kitutu, and her Personal Assistant Joshua Abaho, all of whom are currently out on bail, are jointly charged in this case.

Kitutu, represented by her lawyer Jude Byamukama, argued that her right to free movement should not be restricted, emphasizing that she is presumed innocent. As the Minister for Karamoja Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, she contended that she is required to attend high-level meetings and conferences both within and outside Uganda on behalf of the government.

Mary Gorreti Kitutu also provided evidence that Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja had officially invited and cleared her to travel to London, United Kingdom for a 13-day event, the 10th anniversary of Inzu Yamasaba UK, scheduled from November 23 to December 5, 2023.

Byamukama assured the Court that Kitutu had consistently demonstrated her commitment to the criminal case by attending all previous court hearings. He also highlighted her marital status, parliamentary responsibilities as the Woman MP for Manafwa, and the availability of sureties to prevent her from absconding her court obligations.

However, the prosecution, led by State Attorney Jonathan Muwaganya, opposed Kitutu’s application, arguing that her absence would complicate the determination of her human rights enforcement application and cause undue delays in the ongoing criminal case. Muwaganya presented an affidavit from Sarafina Bireke, a Senior State Attorney, stating that Kitutu’s travel plans were personal and not necessary.

Judge Kajuga, in her ruling, noted that while the lower court hadn’t explicitly ordered Kitutu to surrender her passport or imposed travel restrictions, it was understood that she should not leave the court’s jurisdiction without prior permission.

She considered the letters of invitation to the foreign events and found that one of the invitations, from the United Kingdom, was based on Kitutu’s identity as a Minister from the Bugisu region, which she represents in Parliament.

Justice Kajuga also took into account the fact that Kitutu had obtained clearance from the Prime Minister for her travel to the events. The government had also facilitated her travel expenses for one of the events, demonstrating the government’s interest in her attendance.

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Furthermore, the Judge considered Kitutu’s nomination as a party delegate representing Uganda at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai from November 24 to December 12, 2023, and deemed it an official duty.

In conclusion, Justice Kajuga dismissed the prosecution’s concerns about trial delays, stating that the trial had been stayed pending the determination of Kitutu’s application related to torture, and she had consistently attended court as required. She affirmed Kitutu’s right to travel for the mentioned events.

However, the Judge clarified that Kitutu would need to seek court consent for all her travels outside Uganda, as her bail terms were adjusted accordingly.