[Imprisonment for Life vs Life imprisonment vs Life in Prison]
Which is Which!? (Imprisonment for life, 20 years imprisonment??!)

What is Imprisonment for Life!

Whereas the Penal code Act, Cap.120 doesn’t define what is imprisonment for life, Section 86(3) of the Prisons Act, 2006, deems ‘imprisonment for life’ to be 20 years of imprisonment (for the purposes of calculating remission).

Uganda v Sheikh Yunus Kamoga & Others were charged of murder & terrorism, the high court acquitted all of murder but convicted Kamoga & 5 Others if terrorism. The High Court (Justices: Hon. Lady Percy Night Tuhaise, Hon. Mr. Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Hon. Lady Jane Kiggundu) sentenced Kamoga & 3 others to “life imprisonment”

(Literary this sentence is not defined under the law, Section 26 (1&2) Penal Code Act, Cap. 120, its “imprisonment for life, and therefore contravenes A. 28(12) of the Constitution).

The supreme court of Uganda in Livingston Kakooza v Ug SC Criminal Appeal No.17 of 1993 equally held that ‘imprisonment for life’ means 20 years imprisonment.

On the other hand, the same supreme court in 2009 in the case of Tigo Stephen v Ug SC Criminal Appeal No. 08 of 2009 held that ‘imprisonment for life’ means imprisonment for the ‘entire natural life of the convict’.
Despite the Tigo Stephen Judgement being recent, the supreme didn’t discuss let alone pronounce in the Livingston Kakooza judgement to be a wrong decision (overrule it). This literary means ‘we’ operate on two (2) conflicting decisions.

The Constitutional (sentencing Guidelines for courts of Judicature) (Practice) Directions, 2013, Paragraph (4) defines ‘imprisonment for life to mean “imprisonment for natural life of an offender”

Meanwhile, as prisons, the dilemma is beyond the new trends as “they continue converting imprisonment for life to (20) years imprisonment despite the sentencing guidelines (2013), the spirit behind the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 & the Tigo case (supra).

In Kisembo Patrick v Ug CA Criminal Appeal No. 411 of 2014 the court of Appeal in Fort Portal seem to rely on Tigo case & the sentencing guidelines. But this is not enough since the Stephen Kakooza judgement still stands & S.86(3) Prisons Act is not amended.

Their lordships in their unanimous Judgment writes;
” The maximum sentence of terrorism under Section (7)(b) Anti Terrorism Act,2002 is DEATH….. We thinkits appropriate to sentence the convicts to a)”…Kamoga, Kalungi Kawoya (etc) to life imprisonment for ALL THEIR LIVES ON EARTH…”

The intention of their Lordships is clear, “imprisonment for entire life” as espoused in the sentencing guidelines which is ‘imprisonment for life’. Had the law been clear the Judges would not try to loop the existing lacuna by call it ‘life imprisonment & annexing it with “FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.”

From the foregoing, its equally possible that Kamoga & 3 others on ‘life imprisonment’ are likely to come out of Prison earlier than the co-accused sentenced to 30 years as Prisons Authority under S. 86(3) Prisons Act (supra) administers life imprisonment as 20 years to which remission of about 6 years shall be given. Meaning that Kamoga (& 3 Ors) shall serve only 14 years in prison whereas the two co- accused shall get remission on 30 years of about 8 years hence serving a maximum of 22 years compared to 14 years of Kamoga & Co.

My appeal is therefore to; either the Supreme court to conclusively deal with the Dilemma or the Parliament, to repeal S.86(3) of the Prisons Act, 2006.

NOTE: In our laws there is nothing like ‘Life Imprisonment’ as always misconstrued, its ‘Imprisonment for (natural) life. In fact, ‘life imprisonment’ is a sentence not defined under the law.

  1. Updates on Kamoga & others’ Appeal is to follow meanwhile, as they have through their lawyer Muwema lodged a Notice of Appeal


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