By: Ismael Kasooha
President Yoweri Museveni has cautioned the Judiciary against corruption tendencies but rather serve all people indiscriminately.
“The role of the Judiciary is to deliver quality and timely justice. That is what Ugandans expect. I am pleased that every year you continue to make good progress, as noted in your performance reports,” noted the president.
In his message delivered by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja at the Judiciary Headquarters, the president congratulated the judiciary for completing the year 2022 and beginning 2023 and for all that you have achieved.
“My Lord the Chief Justice, I also congratulate you and their Lordships upon the successful Annual Judges Conference. I am convinced it was a time well spent, with a new resolve to work even harder in this new Law Year,” said the president.
He said that from the reports, the Judiciary has made a number of important achievements and congratulated them upon these milestones.
“Among the many improvements registered, I would like to commend you for fighting case backlog, operationalizing new High Court circuits, advancing the use of ICT, enhancing human resource capacity, improving court processes, revising court rules and strengthening case management reforms such as Mediation, Plea Bargaining, Small Claims Procedure and putting in place a Case Backlog Reduction Strategy, among others. Mediation promotes the African value of justice – when your brother wrongs you, you sit and try to solve your differences before the judge judges you,” said the president. He added, “the Ugandans we serve have higher expectations than ever before from the State and I am glad to see that the Judiciary is beginning to respond accordingly”.
“The Wananchi do not want to hear your legal jargons and a litany of Latin maxims. They come to your Courts to seek protection of their rights and property – land, coffee, cows and other merchandise. They seek for fair and timely judgments that embed ubuntu – our traditional and historical values. The Courts should not be seen to protect thieves and murderers by relying on technicalities and strange procedures to quickly release them noting that some of these are the issues that lower the confidence of our people in the Judiciary,” the message read in part.
Museveni said that the Judiciary was the arm of Government where all run to when faced with conflict expecting justice and noted that many people had received justice from the Courts.
He said that the Government had supported the Judiciary in the past and was committed to continue supporting the Judiciary towards realization of what Chief Justice Owiny – Dollo has termed as the Judiciary Transformation Agenda.
“The Government has progressively increased the Judiciary budget, from UGX. 199Bn in FY 2019/2020 to UGX 381.88Bn in FY 2022/23. As a result, your salaries were enhanced so that you are able to do your work with “one heart” and in order to enable you resist the temptation of corruption. I hope to hear no more cases of corruption in the Judiciary,” read the message.
He said that the Government had provided funds for construction of Courts and Justice Centers across the country, including, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal buildings in Kampala. He appreciated the good progress so far made with these projects that are going to save government billions of shillings that is currently being spent on rent.
“I am informed that you are planning to decentralize the Court of Appeal which is very good because you will be bringing services closer to people. Your Lordship the Chief Justice, I must caution you, however, that in order to realize your Transformation Agenda, you must put in place strong measures for accountability and fighting corruption. You must also strive to maintain utmost vigilance on issues of integrity in the Judiciary,” he said.
The president said that Uganda had already established Zero-Tolerance to Corruption Policy as a national value was counting on the judiciary to help deal with the thieves who were enemies of development and wanted Uganda to remain behind. He added that internally, there should be no excuse for corruption in the Judiciary. “Justice in my ordinary understanding is giving everyone what is due to them and this is not for sale. We need a Judiciary that is dedicated to serve our people impartially and one that offers timely and meaningful justice,” he noted.
However, the president asked the judiciary to be mindful of the modern demands for justice services which have evolved with changes in technology, trends in crime and globalization of human activities.
“We are moving away from petty crimes like stealing cattle and fighting over a pot of beer to sophisticated and transnational crimes such as terrorism and a series of cyber-supported crimes. We therefore need to rethink our methods of delivering justice and devise appropriate measures that make us remain relevant during this Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR),” he said.
He noted that the success of the Judiciary required corresponding effort and collaboration of the other stakeholders in the justice chain, especially the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the Inspectorate of Government (IG), the Uganda Prisons and the Police Force.
The president explained that there was also need to bolster other support systems like online security, financial freedom and regional integration meaning that there must be strengthened deliberate efforts to work together with our neighbors because of the porous borders, cross cutting issues and common enemies including rampant poverty, climate change, threats of violence and terrorism.
“We strongly believe that the trust of the people is the cornerstone of true justice. When justice is properly administered, it guarantees stability, security and economic prosperity of society. On more than one occasion, I have spoken out against the way bail is granted. I am glad to note that the Judiciary streamlined this process with the issuance of Bail Guidelines for Courts of Judicature by the Chief Justice. I hope that the Courts will now give meaningful bail terms in deserving cases,” he said.
The president said that the work of the Judiciary would be incomplete without the involvement of the wanainchi.
“We need to involve our traditional leaders and the religious leaders in the administration of justice. When they speak out against injustice, corruption and sexual violence and when they give information about criminality, they are all participating in the fight for justice and we must listen to them,” he noted.
The Chief Justice, His Lordship Hon. Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny Dollo highlighted the achievements of the judiciary in the year 2022 where the number of cases completed had been grown from 126,265 cases disposed of in 2020 to 158,423 and 250,021 cases disposed of in 2021 AND 2022 respectively.
“This substantial rise in case disposal was mainly attributed to the increase in the number of Judicial Officers and the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as plea bargaining, mediation and small claims procedures among others,” said Owiny.
However, Owiny listed some challenges affecting the judiciary that included inadequate manpower, limited budgetary provision, increasing case log and inadequacies amongst some of the key justice agencies such as the Directorate of Prosecutions, Uganda Police, the Attorney General among others.
The attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka asked the learned friends to always serve the people humanely and ethically.