Chief Justice (CJ) Alfonse Owiny- Dollo, has observed that government’s policy of “taking services nearer to the people” under decentralisation while limiting it to political and administrative services has affected the dispensation of justice in the country.
Delivering his speech at the third memorial lecture of the late Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka in Kampala today, Mr Owiny-Dollo said decentralisation that includes splitting of districts and counties should not only focus on political and administrative services since the process becomes incomplete when courts of law are not included in such decision making policies.
The CJ added that though districts have been split into many counties, the judiciary still has 40 Chief Magistrates’ Courts that are vacant countrywide, thus, affecting an ordinary person from getting justice.
Currently, Uganda has 135 districts with a population of about 45 million people compared to 57 judges who are distributed in various High Court circuits to dispense justice to the citizens.
Contrary to the past when each sub-county had a judicial officer, the multiple splits by the without enhancing the manpower of the justice system has since left gaps in the dispensation of justice by the judiciary.
“We have situations where a Chief Magistrate has to cover an area covering five magisterial areas. Such a judicial officer’s service cannot be well felt by the people or court users”, said Mr Owiny-Dollo.
The CJ noted that the situation is painful especially in High Court circuits saying that the pressure on the judiciary’s performance must be directed to parliament and the executive which are fully empowered instead of expecting the judicial officers to do the impossible with limited capacity.
The day’s main speaker, Dr Kabumba Busingye, a lecturer of Law at Makerere University who delivered the third Kiwanuka memorial lecture called upon the judiciary to mind about an ordinary person when they are dispensing justice.
He argued that ordinary citizens who are the majority in this country need to be reflected or considered in a number of decisions they make instead of being left behind.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ephraim Kamuntu, urged the judiciary to deliver justice very fast in election petitions as the country goes into the election period.
In a speech delivered on his behalf by the Deputy Solicitor General, Mr Christopher Gashirabake, Kamuntu advised the judiciary to implore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to avoid delay of such cases arguing that unresolved cases paralyse the economy and escalate crimes of different categories.
The late Kiwanuka was kidnapped and murdered by former President Idi Amin’s soldiers.
Forty-eight years since his kidnap and subsequent murder, Kiwanuka’s remains have never been seen again.