An Honored Guest
On Thursday of last week, Sean and I were invited to attend a High Court dinner honoring Lady Justice Stella Arach Amoko's appointment to the Ugandan Court of Appeals and Justice Geoffrey Kiryawbire's appointment to become the new Head the Commercial Court. The event was held outside on the slopping yard of a stately home. A live-band was playing and photographers were actively snapping shots of the dignitaries. White table clothes adorned and drink orders were being taken. Earlier in the day, I had vaguely been told about a "going-away party," but as I walked up to the event location, spotted the strong security presence, and took note of the distinguished surroundings, the word "party" did not come to mind. Three other words did: "important State function." I next thought to myself: "Good thing you didn't change out of your suit and tie."
Sean and I were seated with the judges; and the kind gesture was not lost on us. I felt honored to be a guest amongst such an honorable gathering of leaders in the Ugandan government. If it wasn't for the continual discussion of Pepperdine, I would have thought myself a member of the State Department. The event went deep into the night, and was humorously lengthened by the ever present Ugandan sense of decorum. Whenever an official spoke, he or she first needed to recognize the presence of all the different groups of people in attendance. By the third or fourth time this occurred, I began to find it quite amusing. Each speaker in his or her slow and measured Ugandan voice began by saying: "My Lord Principal Judge , My Lords , Your Worships , court staff , honored guests , family , and dear friends, I speak before you..." Towards the end of the evening, Justice Kiryabwire arose with a microphone and deviated from the protocol by asking Sean and I to stand front and center before the assembly. He glowingly spoke of our backgrounds, and the work we are each individually slated to do. He spoke of the plea bargaining project and the positive change it could bring to the criminal justice system. And in closing breath, thanked us for making Uganda and the development of the rule of law a priority in our lives.
As he spoke these words, there was a video camera a few feet in front of us and behind it a massive light shinning into our faces. I could not make out anything before me. Although I knew a gathering was ahead, I was incapable of seeing it. My eyes did not have strength to see through the light. Eyes are not stronger than light. I stood motionless and yet I churned with thoughts of motion. I felt watched by this body that was otherwise invisible to me. Yet I did not feel spied upon, I felt I was being looked at by a body that had a right to look. The feeling instilled in me a desire to live up to the kind words Justice Kiryabwire was then saying. It made me want to be a reflection of that light greater than my eyes for that audience I could not see.
Greer Illingworth, JD '10