Joe Oloka-Onyango

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Joe Oloka-Onyango
Joseph Andrew Oloka-Onyango

September 16, 1960
OccupationLawyer and academic
Known forLawyer, Legal Scholar, Author, Human Rights and Social Justice Activist.
Spouse(s)Sylvia Tamale
Academic background
Alma materHarvard Law School (J.S.D ; LL.M) Law Development Centre (Dip. L.P) Makerere University (LL.B)[1]
Academic work
DisciplineConstitutional law, Human rights, Refugee Law
Main interestsConstitutionalism, Political governance, Human rights
Notable worksWhen Courts Do Politics (Cornell University, 2016), Battling over Human Rights: Twenty Essays on Law, Politics and Governance (Langaa Publishing, 2015), Constitutionalism in Africa; Creating Opportunities, Facing Challenges (Fountain Publishers, 2001), Ghosts & the Law

Joe Oloka-Onyango is a Ugandan lawyer and academic.[2] He is a Professor of Law at Makerere University School of Law where he has also formerly been Dean and Director of the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC).[3] He is married to Prof Sylvia Tamale, also a lawyer, academic and activist. They have two sons; Kwame Sobukwe Ayepa and Samora Okech Sanga.

Early life[edit]

Oloka-Onyango studied Law at Makerere University and attained his post-graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (bar course award) from the Law Development Center in Kampala, before earning his Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees at Harvard Law School.[4][5] He is a scholar of Constitutionalism and human rights in the African context.[6]


Prof Oloka-Onyango previously served as a member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, as UN Special Rapporteur on Globalization and Human Rights, as well as consultant to the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Health Organization.[7] He also serves on the advisory or governing boards of non-profit human rights organizations in North America, Europe and Africa.[8]

He has been a visiting professor at various universities around the world, including Oxford, Cape Town and the United Nations University in Tokyo. In 2014-2015, he spent his sabbatical as Fulbright Professor at George Washington University (GWU) in the USA and Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies (STIAS) in South Africa.[9]

Prof Oloka-Onyango's Professorial Inaugural Lecture, entitled Ghosts & the Law, contained a detailed analysis of the origins, manifestations and intricacies of the Political Question Doctrine in Uganda and its closely related co-concept of Public Interest Litigation and together, their impact on Constitutionalism, the Doctrine of Separation of Powers, enforcement of fundamental Human rights, judicial independence, the phenomenon of "Presidentialism" and other aspects of modern state life. Within this lecture, he also extensively reviewed the historic precedent in Uganda v Commissioner of Prisons, Ex Parte Matovu and its effects on Ugandan jurisprudence to-date.[10][11]

On May 5, 2016, he took lead when he made the inaugural staff lecture at the Makerere University School of Law, presenting a paper entitled "Enter the Dragon, Exit a Myth: The Contested Candidacy of John Patrick Amama Mbabazi".[12]

On May 9, 2016, Prof Oloka-Onyango and 8 other law dons from Makerere University School of Law successfully filed an application before the Supreme Court of Uganda for leave to intervene in Uganda's 2017 Presidential election petition, Amama Mbabazi v. Yoweri Museveni & the Electoral Commission,[13] as Amici Curiae. This became the first time in Ugandan electoral history that the Supreme Court heard and granted an application for such leave. The nine law dons were; Oloka-Onyango, Sylvia Tamale, Christopher Mbazira, Ronald Naluwairo, Rose Nakayi, Busingye Kabumba, Daniel Ruhwheza, Kakungulu Mayambala and Daniel Ngabirano. As part of their submission, the law dons recommended to the Court the use of structural interdicts or supervisory injunctions to deal with the persistent disregard of its recommendations by the Electoral Commission and the State in matters of the electoral process. In its ruling, the Court stated that;

"We are satisfied that the applicants have proven record in the area of Human Rights, Constitutionalism and Good Governance. They are highly experienced and widely researched legal scholars in these and related matters as evidenced by the attached curricula vitae."


Prof Oloka-Onyango is an active litigant and has been involved in various cases of Constitutional importance and relevance to the Human rights field. He was the lead petitioner in Constitutional Petition No. 8 of 2014, "Oloka-Onyango & 9 Others v. the Attorney General",[14] before the Constitutional Court wherein the Anti Homosexuality Act of 2014 was declared void. He was also one of the petitioners in Constitutional Petition No. 2 of 2003, "Uganda Association of Women Lawyers & 5 Others v. the Attorney General" which successfully challenged the Constitutional validity of several provisions of Uganda's Divorce Act for being contrary to the Constitutionally guaranteed rights to equality of all persons regardless of sex and the rights of women.[15]


Some of Prof Oloka-Onyango's recent works include; "Battling over Human Rights: Twenty Essays on Law, Politics and Governance" (Langaa Publishing, 2015); "When Courts Do Politics" (Cornell University, 2016); "CONTROLLING CONSENT: Uganda's 2016 Elections" - Edited by J. Oloka-Onyango and Josephine Ahikire; "Debating Love, Politics and Identity in East Africa: The Case of Kenya and Uganda" in the African Journal of Human Rights (2015); "Human Rights and Public Interest Litigation in East Africa: A Bird's Eye View" in the George Washington University International Law Review (2015); "Befriending the Judiciary: Behind and Beyond the 2016 Supreme Court Amicus Curiae Rulings in Uganda" - J Oloka-Onyango and Christopher Mbazira. 2016; "Enter the Dragon, Exit a Myth: The Contested Candidacy of John Patrick Amama Mbabazi" – JUNE 2016; "From Expulsion to Exclusion." JUNE 6, 2016; "Unpacking the African Backlash to The International Criminal Court (ICC): The Case of Uganda and Kenya" - JUNE 9, 2015; And "Police Powers, Politics and Democratic Governance in Post-Movement Uganda - October 26, 2011.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Trustees/ Executive Board". Alliance for Africa. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  3. ^ Onyango, Joe Oloka (2016-01-12). "Joe Oloka Onyango". Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  4. ^ Onyango, Joe Oloka (2016-01-12). "Joe Oloka Onyango". Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Onyango, Joe Oloka (2016-01-12). "Joe Oloka Onyango". Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Prof Oloka-Onyango talks on 'ghosts' and the law". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  11. ^ "Professor Oloka-Onyango delivers inaugural lecture on GHOSTS AND THE LAW". Makerere University News Portal. 2015-11-18. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  12. ^ "Professor Joe Oloka Onyango presents the inaugural School of Law Staff Seminar".
  13. ^ Election Petition No. 1 of 2017. Supreme Court of Uganda
  14. ^ "Oloka-Onyango & 9 Ors v Attorney General (CONSTITUTIONAL PETITION N0. 08 OF 2014. ) [2014] UGCC 14 (1 August 2014); | Uganda Legal Information Institute". Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  15. ^ see Articles 21, 31 and 33 of Uganda's 1995 Constitution.