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Pepperdine Hosted Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki

Pepperdine’s Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics and Global Justice Program presented a conversation with the chief justice of Uganda, Benjamin Odoki, on September 23 at the School of Law.

Joining Chief Justice Odoki, was Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, a judge from the High Court of Uganda, Commercial Division; Tim Perrin, vice dean of the School of Law; and third-year student Nicole Hutchinson, who previously clerked for the justice in Uganda. Chief Justice Odoki spoke on writing the Constitution of Uganda, establishing the rule of law, and the future of Uganda.

"One of the major issues facing the creation of the constitution was the lack of comprise," said Chief Justice Odoki, who wrote the country's constitution in the early 1990s. "We had to go issue by issue and find the consensus, and then we had to build confidence in the new constitution."

Justice Kiryabwire recalled being in primary school during the rule of Idi Amin. "We knew that when we finished school the one and only thing we needed to do was get out of Uganda. There was no rule of law and no respect for human rights at that time," he said. Justice Kiryabwire talked about how far the country has come. "Now many people of my generation have leadership positions in Uganda."

A video of the conversation will be available soon.

About Chief Justice Odoki

Odoki has served as the chief justice since 2001, where he presides over the Supreme Court. From 1989 to 1993 he was chair of the Uganda Constitutional Commission, which collected the views from the public and prepared a draft constitution for Uganda. The draft was debated and adopted by an elected Constituent Assembly in 1995. He also serves as the chair of the Editorial Board of the Uganda Law Reports, a member of the Honorary Board of the Commonwealth Law Bulletin, a judge of the Administrative Tribunal of the African Development Bank, and a member of many international organizations, including the Judicial Integrity Group, which formulated the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct in 2003, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association.

Previously, Odoki served as justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda, justice of the Court of Appeal, judge of the High Court of Uganda, and chair of the Judicial Service Commission from 1996 to 2000. Prior to that he worked as director of the Uganda Law Development Centre, director of Public Prosecutions and Senior State Attorney in the Ministry of Justice where he started working in 1969 soon after obtaining his law degree from the University of Dar es Salaam. For many years he was also chair of the Uganda Law Council, which is responsible for regulation and disciplinary control of the legal profession.

Odoki has been presented with various national and international awards for distinguished service throughout his illustrious career, including the Uganda Independence Medal, the Distinguished Award by the Uganda Law Society, and the Distinguished Jurist Award by the Nigerian Association of Democratic Lawyers. His book The Search for a National Consensus, which details the making of the 1995 Uganda Constitution, was published in 2005.

Visit the Nootbaar Institute.

Visit the Global Justice Program.