The entrance to his office swarms with visitors, most waiting nervously in the corridors with bulging files in hand. Many are without appointment. They have come full of expectations and hopes that the country’s top prosecutor will help solve their cases which are lagging somewhere. Some of these have been wrongly framed, pushed out of a job; others are following up on a case levelled against some powerful man who wants to push them off a land. Perhaps the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mr Mike Chibita, will use his office and intervene.
In walks Mike, as he is known among his pals. He stands at 6’4 and can’t be mistaken in a crowd, as he is always a head taller. After settling in his office, calmly, he starts clearing the heavy files waiting on his desk, recommending who meets the standard of prosecution. Along the way he also receives the long line one by one through the day. As he patiently listens to harrowing accounts of those looking for justice, often a call from some of the top law enforcement officials comes, like the Inspector General of Police. But sometimes it could be the President of Uganda, Mr Yoweri Museveni, calling. Mike was for a long time the President’s private secretary for legal affairs and the two have worked closely for more than two decades. When in January, 2018, Mike lost his father, Baaba ClementDuallo, at 93, the President could not make it to the funeral. But later found time to travel down to Buwesa, in Butaleja District, where he paid his last respects.
The nation’s top prosecutor did not grow up thinking that one day he would be the man who has the last word on any file that is deemed worth of prosecution by the government. He grew up in a remote village from Kampala, in the far off Buwesa, among the Banyole peoples, where the primary occupation of most of the people then was tending gardens for home consumption. Owning a car was unheard of; most of everyone went bare foot. There were no role models holding important positions to look up to aside from school teachers, government clerks and priests. In fact, young Mike, who, even as a kid was quite tall for his age, wanted to join Idi Amin’s army and serve as one of the officers. The army anyway needed tall brutes to do some of its dirty jobs and big Mike thought he met the perfect profile. But apparently God had different plans.
Mzee Duallo was a teacher who valued education. Mike, who comes five in the family ladder, was taken to the only primary school in his village, Buwesa Primary School, where his father was also on staff. Aside from being a teacher, Mzee Duallo, was unique among his neighbors. He was married to one wife, Maama Edisa, The two expected the best out of their ten children.
At school, what seemed though to take up much of Mike’s time was football. He was not a star student, and at his first sitting of Primary Leaving Examination though he got a first grade he could only be admitted to a day secondary school, Mbale High School. His siblings had gone to some of the best schools in the country like Mt St Mary’s College, Namagunga and Busoga College, Mwiri. “Baaba was never happy with any of us going to day school,” he shared in his memoirs, “Loved by the Best: The journey of an African judge.” He was forced to repeat. At last he passed well and was admitted to the prestigious King’s College Budo for his secondary education.
Going to Budo
King’s College Budo is a prestigious church founded school by missionaries of Church Missionary Society in 1906. The idea of an elite school originated from a visit by two Baganda chiefs Sir Apollo Kagwa and Ham Mukasa who had been invited to attend the coronation of King Edward V11 in England in 1902. There on a tour they were impressed by the idea of Eton College, a school designed for the upper class and future rulers of British society. Upon founding Budo it was designed for Baganda gentry; however, later, imaginative British Headmasters like Rev Ian Robinson opened the door to the less fortunate boys and girls from all over Uganda. By the time Mike joined it was a school run by Government of Uganda and offering comprehensive education to all able students.
However, the years of Idi Amin’s brutal regime had taken their toll. Initially popular, General Idi Amin, who had overthrown the government of President Milton Obote in 1971, had unleashed a reign of terror that, among others, had forced out all of the Oxford- Cambridge educated expatriate teachers Budo once had. In 1975 Mr Dan Kyanda, the first African headmaster, against worsening conditions had also been forced out. He was replaced by Mr Uyirworth who, being close to the ethnicity of Amin as he was coming from West Nile region, was expected to hold the school together. But he too had failed. Standards had broken down. Bullying was the order of the day.
In this quite unruly atmosphere, Mike found himself. Although at first intimidated by the more sophisticated boys and girls, many from well- to- do families, he found his keel at the football field where he loved playing goal keeping.
A decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior
While at Mbale High School where his favorite sister Mary (RIP) had enrolled him for a term, Mike had decided to follow Jesus as a personal savior after being taken to join her for service at her Deliverance Church. At Budo Mike noticed that there was a group of committed followers of Christ who met regularly in fellowship. One of the members was Paul Bakibinga, now a noted BBC correspondent. Although ahead by one class the two struck up a friendship. “We got to talk about spiritual things…He invited me to “their fellowship.” This was the awakened fellowship. “During that year, 1979, my commitment to the Lord grew,” he recalls. One of those who would have great influence on him was Paul Musherure. now a US based dentist. “He was so committed and we all would wake up at 5 and assemble in one room, read the Bible and pray before going for breakfast. To this day I still wake up at 5!”
Mike did well at his O’level and was readmitted for an Arts Course at A’level. He had grown in confidence and when elections came for Head Prefect he stood. He won. However, the teachers feared the future top prosecutor would be too nice for a job of finding offenders. They settled on another classmate, Peter Nsubuga (now a US based medical Doctor), and instead he became Prep prefect. Mike looks back at his time at Budo with fond memories. “I had come to school as a timid teenage. I left confident, well exposed and informed young man.”
A lawyer from Buwesa.
Mike was admitted for a Law course at Makerere University- the second from his area of birth. It was indeed a journey of come-from-far for a child who had once considered dropping out of school and joining Idi Amin’s army. At the university Mike picked up another sport- Rugby. “I enjoyed Rugby so much, that after university I temporarily deserted football, and even played for the club, the Kobs.”
But, aside, his most important university experience was attending Kampala Baptist Church. There was a missionary couple, Larry and Sharon Pumpelly, who, together with their two kids went out to reach out to students. At the Baptist student center in Wandegeya Mike would team up with other young lads, dive into Bible discussion on Fridays led by Dr Jack Smith, and go out on weekend fun days organized by the church. Some of the regulars were Dr Richard Sezibera, now Rwanda’s foreign minister.
Another turning moment was meeting a striking lithe beauty called Monica. The two got to know each other quite well through those regular Christian camps. When Monica got a Fulbright scholarship to do a Master’s degree in Journalism at Iowa University, Mike, who had just graduated, feared he might miss the greatest deal in his life. He scrambled and proposed. Luckily, she accepted and after hurried introductions in Toro where Monica hails from, the two tied the knot in Iowa after Mike was also admitted for Master’s degree in Law.
Family Life and Career
The Chibitas have now been married for 28 years, and still attend Kampala Baptist Church, where they met. They have raised four biological children- all who now dwarf their equally tall parents, two have already graduated in Mass Communication and Law, while the last two born are Business and Law students at Uganda Christian University, Mukono. Monica is now a full professor of Communication at Uganda Christian University and chairs the Board of Uganda’s leading newspaper, New Vision.
Looking back Mike observes how the hand of God has been there all through his life. He recalls an incident where his elder brother Richard (RIP) after telling him that his sister Alice (RIP) had died due to birth complications, a car nearly knocked him dead as he crossed the road in a daze. But God had a big plan. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11).”