Solicitor General asks Gash to explain sexual harassment of attorney

Bizarrely, the SG's circular does not mention the accused, Gashirabake, or his official title, even once in the 310-word circular.

GENDER | The Solicitor General, Francis Atoke, has asked his deputy Christopher Gashirabake to explain himself on accusation of sexually harassing a senior state attorney.

In a May 14 circular, Atoke admitted that his office received Samantha Mwesigye’s complaint in December last year and although nearly six months have gone down without the conclusion of the case, he said they had instituted a committee on February 6 to look into the matter.

“I am aware that the committee has since reviewed the evidence that Mwesiqye submitted to my office,” Atoke said of the committee chaired by Attorney General.

Sendo Cleaners

Bizarrely, the SG’s circular does not mention the accused, Gashirabake, or his official title, even once in the 310-word circular.

But Mwesigye and her official title are cited a total of at least four times.

Mwesigye, a Senior State Attorney in the Attorney General’s chambers, was forced to approach Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda in apparent last ditch attempt to get some action going against Gashirabake.

She contacted Rugunda by WhatsApp messaging and apologised for jumping protocol claiming that her bosses have not helped her.

“All attempts at following protocol have not yielded any results. The background to my complaint is as follows; I met Gashirabake when he supervised me as a clerkship student in 2005. This is when the sexual harassment started,” Mwesigye said.

Speaking to Crime24 at the weekend, Mwesigye supported the notion for creation of a specialised court for handling sexual harassment against women.

“Firstly, it would give men pause before they went on to harass any other woman, secondly women would know that there is a clear message that government is putting forward which would be that they will protect women at all costs,” she said.

Sexual harassment against women remains rife in many workplaces and the Ministry of Justice isn’t any different. In the AG’s chambers where Mwesigye works alone, sources say many women have been sexually harassed over the years.

“The department has regular trips for officials but a superior will place on such trips their target to ‘soften’ them for the approach,” a source in AG’s office told this news website.

It goes that those who accept get many more of such trips abroad, which come with allowances, while those who refuse the advances are banished from foreign trips.

Mwesigye, in her complaints, indicated as much, saying her trips abroad has been curtailed, accusing her bosses of going as far as refuse to recommend her for a visa for a trip she had.

“Sometimes it is a reward for accepting their wish, other times it is just a way of courtship. Either way, the motive is the same,” the source, who claimed that the victims include women who have gone on to be judges, added.

Another source claimed that one of the senior officials had repeated trysts in his office with a married woman — who has since taken to the bench.

Mwesigye said she had no intention of forgiving Gashirabake.

“He apologised once before and later chose to call a meeting to ridicule and intimidate me. I know now he was never genuine,” she said.

“The ministry has for long pushed for an apology even with the knowledge that I was opposed to it and I required a committee to investigate to put the matter to rest. They, too, chose sides by dragging their feet till I was left with no choice but to make a public appeal. I do pray that ultimately I am heard and get justice.”

Mwesigye came forward against her boss at a time he had applied for the bench. Gashirabake was among the more than two dozen judicial officers shortlisted for the Court of Appeal bench.

It leaves the embattled judicial officer with a lot at stake to ponder over and he will be doubly grateful that his superiors have gone to some effort to protect his name despite the information being a public secret.

Atoke said the Ministry of Justice has taken every effort to address the complaint through established structures and will continue to handle the matter to its conclusion.

He said the ministry was confident that the committee investigating the allegations will do a thorough job and submit a report to top management with recommendations for appropriate action.

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