Babirye Stellah Maris
On June 17, 2023, Judiciary lost an extraordinary jurist who had championed Justice for over 2 decades.
The passing of Supreme Court Justice Stella Arachi Amoko hit the legal fraternity like thunder leaving severe damage on the arm of government charged with equity and arbitration.
Her death however required the intervention of the law before her lifeless body could be laid to rest. This was due to a disagreement between two families regarding where she would be buried.
Born on May 16, 1954, Justice Stella Arachi Amoko was renowned for her dedication to justice and her incorruptible stature.
She had a successful career, shining while handling election petitions at lower courts before joining the Supreme Court in 2013. Although she had twice attempted to become the Deputy Chief Justice, she was ultimately unsuccessful.
Justice Amoko was seen as a fresh breath of air in the Supreme Court and had high hopes for her career.
Many believed she could potentially succeed the then Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe. However, Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo was designated.
Throughout her career, Justice Amoko had risen through the ranks, starting as a State Attorney and eventually becoming a judge of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Deputy Principle Judge of the East African Court of Justice. Her fellow justices viewed her as trustworthy and ambitious.
Despite her accomplishments, controversy arose after her death regarding her burial location. Her husband, Ambassador Idule Amoko, requested that she be buried in Adjumani district, while her paternal family insisted on Nebbi district, both located in northern Uganda. As a result, two parallel burial programs were issued.
To resolve the dispute, the Judiciary postponed Justice Stella Arachi Amoko’s burial and her body was returned to the funeral home pending a court ruling or agreement between the families. The Judge’s family filed an application at the family court, seeking an order to prevent her burial in Adjumani.
During the court session, the applicants argued that the alleged customs supporting Adjumani as the burial place were unfounded, while the customs supporting Nebbi were valid and proven. They also claimed that the deceased, Justice Amoko, had publicly expressed her wish to be buried in Nebbi.
The Family Division High Court in Kampala ultimately ruled in favor of the children, sister, and brother of Justice Stella Arachi Amoko. It was determined that she would be buried at Jukuya Hill, Juba Village in Nebbi District on July 1, 2023.
The writer is a second-year Law student at Nkumba University in Entebbe, Uganda.