May 15, 2021

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Museveni backs calls for magistrates at sub-counties

Museveni backs calls for magistrates at sub-counties

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President Museveni has said with proper planning and resource prioritisation, the Judiciary can have a magistrate at every sub-county.

According to the President, since there are administrative units at the sub-county level, including chiefs, forest officers, veterinary officers and medical assistants, it would be important to have a judicial officer there as well.

“It is a question of planning; then we discuss resources. It is important to have coverage for the whole country, but at what cost? Planning determines what to do,” he said.
The President was yesterday speaking at the swearing-in ceremony of Lady Justice Margaret Apiny as a High Court judge at State House Entebbe.

Mr Museveni alluded to the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), which he said operates on meagre resources and low pay but is very efficient and effective.
“If you are to look at our [defence] budget, it is like $500 million [yet] other countries are in billions. We are able to provide a defence service in spite of a small budget.

The secret also is in prioritisation. Like the recruitment of educated people, the army in past was illiterate; then weapons, housing and transport were a bit lacking. That is how we are able to provide you with that defence service,” he said.
The President apologised for his casual wear at the swearing-in ceremony, saying there was a mix-up in the programme.

“Banyankole have strict protocol on matters of dress. There is dress for work, then dress for Sunday. I came here with the dress of work. I was not told there was a Sunday function. I am not underlooking your ceremony. I come with dress of work. I am very sorry, I would have put on a tie. I suffer, but I put it on. I congratulate Lady Justice Margaret Apiny,” he said.

 

The President appealed to the Judiciary to prioritise cases such as murder and rape.
“For me, I appeal to the Judiciary that offences such as murder, rape and defilement, even without enough resources, should be got out of the way. It removes enmity out of the way among the people. The African mentality like is with the Banyankole, is if you make mistakes, such as steal my cow, abuse, attack or beat me; those are ebicumulo (wrongs). Once the case is judged against me I must pay a goat or cow,” he said.

“But the boundary is murder, if you kill a person, it is enzungu (vendetta). They believed in collective punishment and must go and kill somebody in your clan. Because of collective accountability…make a whole clan accountable for the wrong of one of them. In order not to attract revenge, go to settle matter Okukalaba. (Give many cows to perform religious ceremony to wash away blood of one who died),” he added.

Museveni hailed
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, congratulated Justice Apiny on her appointment and thanked the President for giving priority to the Judiciary.

“The NRM as a party in government, its history is rooted in the search and pursuit of justice and rule of law. You have been exemplary in showing that no one is above the law. There are some Ugandans who only think justice is done only if they win and if they don’t win they think justice has not been done. We must build confidence and defend the integrity of the Judiciary,” he said.

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo also commended the President for understanding the role of Judiciary in national development.

“We find a lot of people highly educated people who do not understand the role and place of Judiciary. You have demonstrated your keen interest and full understanding of importance of the judiciary as one of the three arms of government. You have given me additional weapons in my arsenal, but of course, like Oliver Twist [a character in Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Oliver Twist’], we ask for more,” he said.
Justice Dollo said Ugandans need judicial services and he welcomed the President’s support for extending the services to the sub-county level.

“When you graced our new law year for the Judiciary, you promised us that you would ensure that our people see the rendering of justice up to sub-county level. You wouldn’t have given us a better prize than ensuring that our people enjoy safe water, local governance and similarly administration of justice right at their doorstep. You couldn’t have done anything greater,” he said.
Justice Dollo said while he is cognizant of the fact that the resource envelope is small, he urged the government to ensure that there is equitable distribution among the three arms of government.
 
Case backlog

The President’s remarks come as the Judiciary struggles to reduce the case backlog.
By 2019, the case backlog stood at about 36,009 cases, with the Land Division of High Court with 5,681 cases, Anti-Corruption Court (61), Commercial Court (5,454), Criminal Division (1,276), Civil Division 1,364, Execution and Bailiffs (2,832), Family Division (2,705) and 33 at International Crimes Division.

There are 189 Grade 1 Magistrates, and only 32 Grade 2 Magistrates and 47 chief magistrates out of the desired 100. There are 60 judges out of the desired 82, 14 Justices of the Court of Appeal and 12 justices of the Supreme Court for an adult population of over 51.9 per cent.
By these statistics, it would take one judge of the High Court to hear and dispose of 1,214 cases per year, which is humanly impossible.

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Last modified on Friday, 12 March 2021 03:22
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