Principal Judge, East African Court of Justice (EAJ).
Judge, Court of Appeal, Uganda.

Monica Mugenyi

When I was appointed a judge of the High Court of Uganda, back in 2010, I had a deep sense of apprehension. I had been a lawyer before, frequently appearing in various courts, and I was acutely aware of the criticisms directed at judges. It did not help matters that I was the youngest judge on the bench at the time and female and perceived as a disaster waiting to happen. Three short years later, having disproven even the worst critics, I was appointed a judge of the First Instance Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). A role I was expected to execute alongside my national judicial office. I was elevated to the office of Principal Judge of the EACJ and Administrative Head of the First Instance Division, the first woman to serve in that position.

My challenges trebled. Suddenly the youngest and only female in the Division was the Presiding Judge and Administrative Head of a Division that included judges with more years of experience at the court than I had. I have had the distinct honour of having served seamlessly with these distinguished colleagues, and, together, we have raised the bar on the quantity and depth of judgments delivered by the Division. We have rendered groundbreaking decisions in the area of regional trade and clarified the concept of state responsibility for internationally wrongful acts within the East African Community. As I prepare to pass on the baton of leadership at the end of this year, I am proud of the great team that I leave behind to steer the court to even greater heights. Most importantly, my brothers at the bench did finally acknowledge that gender is merely a state of being, not a definition of capability (or the lack of it).

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