Who is George Wilson Kanyeihamba?: Flash Uganda Media looks at his biography, age, family, wife, work and experience, political career, early life and education of the former retired Ugandan Supreme Court judge.
Professor George Wilson Kanyeihamba is a retired Ugandan Supreme Court judge, former minister and attorney general under President Museveni’s government. Miraculously, Kayeihamba rose from obscurity to the world of prominence.
Prof. Kanyeihamba was among the three Supreme Court justices who ruled that the election of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was fraudulent enough to be nullified. He has since lost his post as judge of the African court of justice and to political commentators his stand in that election petition made him lose his job.
He criticized the government of Uganda the time armed men invaded The High Court Premises to re-arrest treason suspects that had been released on bail by the court.
And following the event, The Constitutional Court ruled that the invasion of the court premises was unconstitutional.
Professor Kanyeihamba has a love/hate relationship with the government; he’s unpredictable in his judgment. The renowned judge was the only Judge with a PhD in the country at the time of his retirement, admired by many for his intellectual strength.
In the last three decades, he has been a key protagonist in the metamorphosis that has been seen Uganda emerge from tyranny and lawlessness to the present constitutional and political order.
Early Life and Education
Prof. George Kanyeihamba was born in 1939, to Zakaliya Bafwokorora and Malyamu, his name was shortened to Barorora.
Zakaliya was a peasant who never went to any formal school and could not read and write, he migrated from his place of birth, Kinaba, Rutenga present-day Kanungu District and settled in Rubanda County where many of his clanmates, the Abagabira, lived.
Prof. Kanyeihamba’s father was attracted by the gold mind where he secured a job. While Zakaliya was away from home working, Kanyeihamba was born.
Kayeihamba’s siblings had gone to work in the fields on top of the hill, and his mother was left alone at home.
His mother decided to go and fetch firewood in the nearby forest and that is when Kanyeihamba’s was born, his mother was alone in the forest but managed to give birth unaided.
As a result, the newborn boy has named Kanyeihamba means “of the forest”. It’s customary among the Bakiga to name children after events, personalities and phenomena existing at the time of birth.
Following the birth of Kanyeihamba, his siblings Bafanakyo and Charles Ngambeki travelled from Kinaba to Muzirante, Mpuugu, Rubanda, where their father was busy working at a gold mine and building a new home for the family.
He sought and obtained permission to return to his former village to fetch his family.
And when the proprietor of the goldmine asked about the name and gender of the child, that information was inserted in Zakaliya’s employment booklet, which was known as “ekippande” and that’s how Prof. Kanyeihamba’s date of birth came to be accurately known since it was recorded.
He’s the last born to a family of eleven children.
Kanyeihamba’s mother Malyamu was a committed Christian who attended church classes and services. She listened, retained much of what was taught and applied them in her day to day life and a stronghold of the Barorora household.
Kanyeihamba’s family had three boys, they attended school but their eldest brother was denied entry into any school. He had been a victim of a fire at his grandparents’ home in Nyarurambi and lost his left eye and hand.
So, as the last born Kanyeihamba had to stay at home with his parents and graze the family animals, and generally look after them in the village until their old age.
In fact, in Rukiga culture, the last born is also known as Buchura. Okuchura means to weep for the dead. It was always anticipated that the last born, save for accidents, would be the last surviving member of the family and therefore would bury most, if not all, and also mourn them.
This is one reason why I was taught how to graze and look after the family’s domestic animals at such an early and tender age.
At an early age, Kanyeihamba used to accompany his elder brothers to graze cattle, sheep and goats in the bushes to help him learn.
Consequently, the only person whom the family chose to go to school was Yoweri. Indeed, he did go to school and stayed there for two terms. He learned how to read and write his name.
Unfortunately, he hated school. After the second term, he adamantly refused to go back.
Kanyeihamba’s mother tried to force him to go back by punishing him. Yoweri ran away from home and stayed with his sister.
Determined to educate one of their children, Zakaliya and Malyamu turned to Kanyeihamba.
And he was exceedingly pleased and excited because he loved to learn how to read and write but mostly because of art that was taught at Hamurwa Church School where he was to start his education.
At the time Kanyeihamba was among the youngest in the class, but also the best. The distance from Hamurwa Church School to Muzirante (home) was about two miles.
From Hamurwa Church School, Prof. Kayeihamba joined Nyaruhanga Anglican Primary School, then Kigezi High School and later Busoga College Mwiri. After he was immediately admitted to Makerere University to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree in History because he had performed extremely better.
Nevertheless, Kanyeihamba had always inclined Law, even though no course was being taught at the university level in Uganda at the time.
Shortly, Kanyeihamba’s prayers were answered, Kigezi Local Government authorities had discovered that local governments which hired their lawyers fared better in negotiations for contracts and grants and legal issues connected with the government.
They had also seen, with admiration, the performance of the late John Wycliffe Kazzora, the then counsel for the Kingdom of Ankole, which was a neighbouring border district to Kigezi.
And through consultations, especially between the leaders of Kigezi under the chairmanship of Kosiya Kikira of Rujumbura who was then district’s top man as Secretary-General, Kanyeihamba was unanimously nominated to receive the District’s Bursary and proceed to the United Kingdom (UK) to study law.
The District authorities submitted my name to the District Commissioner (DC) for approval.
Preparations for his travel to England began in earnest. A few weeks before Kanyeihamba’s departure, those who had been chosen to study in the UK were invited and taken to Entebbe to attend an induction course at Nsamizi Training Centre.
The course was designed to educate students recruited outside Britain about that country, its people, traditions and culture. Then later the University of Warwick from where he obtained his PhD degree
Work and Experience
Professor George Wilson Kanyeihamba was appointed a member of the Supreme Court of Uganda in 1997 and retired in November 2009.
Before, Kanyeihamba served as minister of commerce, minister of Justice, and attorney general, under President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
Chancellor of both Kampala International University and Kabale University.
Member of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative
Chairman of the Committee on Judges Terms and Conditions of Service.
Legal Advisor to the President of Uganda on Human Rights and International Affairs.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Kabale University. Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Constitutional Assembly that drafted Uganda’s 1995 Constitution.
Chair of the International Commission of Jurists Advisory Panel of Eminent Common Wealth Judicial Experts. Kanyeihamba has worked as Legal Expert on the revision of the African Chapter of Human and People’s Rights.
He has been part of several facts finding missions for the Common Wealth Secretariat and the International Commission of Jurists in Countries including Kenya and Swaziland.
In 2006, he was elected human and people’s rights and as a member of the International Criminal Bar Association Council
Prof. Kayeihamba a retired judge was sued by Supreme Court Judge Dr Ester Kisakye for defamation. The suit, filed before the Civil Division of High Court was based on the contents of a letter contained in Kanyeihamba’s book titled; “IN THE NAME OF GOD TRUTH AND JUSTICE” in February 2020.
The book reportedly contained a defamatory letter authored by the retired judge who was reportedly complaining about Dr Kisakye’s academic qualifications, judicial conduct and corruption.
The letter, to the then Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, also indicated that Kisakye was always dissenting judgments that would affect the Executive arm of government.
Prof Kanyeihamba once dragged a psychiatrist to court for diagnosing him with dementia.
The medical report that indicated Kanyeihamba was “suffering from dementia” authored by Professor Sseggane Musisi, a senior consultant psychiatrist, aided by Dr Paul Bangirana of Nakasero hospital which was later confirmed untrue.
- The Blessing And Joy of Being Who You Are
- Kanyeihamba’s Commentaries On Law, Politics and Governance
- Case Book on Lawyers, and Ethics, Professional Fees and Charges
Prof. Justice George Wilson Kanyeihamba is married to Susan and together they have children and grandchildren.