- Where a judiciary is weak, there is a tendency for other arms of government to meddle in court cases through overturning decisions, firing officials or cutting of the court’s finances. Law enforcement also suffers and citizens begin to lose trust and confidence in their governance systems.
- Recently, this has been manifested in the Uganda. The most recent cases include the illegal arrest and detention of the popular novelist winner Kakwenza Rukira-Bashaija who has been incarcerated since 28th December, 2021 without a fair and speedy trial as required by law and the whole situation is arbitral to chapter four of the supreme law of Uganda. The closure of 54 NGOs in August, 2021.
Over the years, our well-functioning Judiciary has had a critical role in Uganda’s development. It has not only been fundamental in advancing a Uganda’s sovereignty, but it has also been on the forefront in promoting constitutionalism, enhancing adherence to the rule of law while ensuring maintenance of law and order. In this way, the Judiciary has over the years created a better environment for economic growth and respect of human rights. The judiciary in any country is the custodian of the constitution and guarantor of the fundamental rights of the people. It is not only considered the most sanctimonious pillar of the state but also a foundation on which civilizations are built. All philosophies ungrudgingly acknowledge the independence of the judiciary as a means to ensure social amity, political development, peace and progress in any society
Historically, it’s been seen beyond doubt that a competent judiciary expands the possibilities for a nation’s future, gives home hope to marginalized communities’ rights through assisting in securing access to justice for the underprivileged, marginalized and vulnerable groups. When the judiciary is performing wonderfully well, it rekindles the hopes of common people that there is someone who will protect their basic human rights.
However, there is a growing laxity in the performance of judiciary and its courts in Uganda currently. And this is not only stifling the development of Uganda as a country but it is also taking it to a wrong direction of progress perhaps to the old days that I personally did not experience but rather I read about and heard stories from the old generation that experienced it. Such a direction is not good for the people of Uganda particularly the youth and not proper for the 21st century whose eye and goals are pointing to civilization and respect of humanity as well as environment.
Where a judiciary is weak, there is a tendency for other arms of government to meddle in court cases through overturning decisions, firing officials or cutting of the court’s finances. Law enforcement also suffers and citizens begin to lose trust and confidence in their governance systems. Recently, this has been manifested in the Uganda. The most recent cases include the illegal arrest and detention of the popular novelist winner Kakwenza Rukira-Bashaija who has been incarcerated since 28th December, 2021 without a fair and speedy trial as required by law and the whole situation is arbitral to chapter four of the supreme law of Uganda. The closure of 54 NGOs in August, 2021. There are many other incidents arbitral arrests that happened during 2021 general elections that are still unheard and aspects of human rights and environmental violations. The frequent disrespect of court orders directly and painfully points to the growing failure of the judiciary as an arm of government which is stifling development.
It’s no longer a matter of debate that Uganda dominantly survives on agricultural sector hence this communicates a lot to many suffering Ugandans who has had land matters backlogged in courts for decades. What melts and at the same time freezes our hearts is that even land matters involving government take years to be resolved. The case in point is the compulsory land acquisition for the oil refinery in 2012 which is yet to be decided as the victims are suffering, and the government determined to amend the relevant article 26. The same problem is becoming worse in EACOP affected areas. There is also the overtalked Bugoma central forest reserve which has become a growing issue between NEMA, Hoima sugar Company and Environmental concerns of Uganda as a country amidst the current trends of climate change, a second global pandemic. These are cases that the courts of judicature can invoke their powers to preserve the land and environmental rights of citizens of Uganda.
These happenings and very many others are robbing citizens of the incentive to think and act strategically for the long-term future. They paint a tragic picture. Elected officials tend to exploit the system for their immediate self-enrichment. This only points to one thing, the loss of respect for the governance system with the result of political upheaval, brain drain and a failed state.
Therefore, the judiciary should be reminded that Courts play a critical role in safeguarding human rights. Chief Justice Marshall set the stage for this responsibility when in Fletcher v Perk, 1810, he held that “Courts are established to decide on human rights.” In this landmark ruling, the court was particularly instrumental in safeguarding property rights against legislative encroachment. I urge the judiciary play a central role in Uganda’s development by strengthening devolution to enable greater self-determined development by the devolved centres. Recognizing and strengthening protections and affirmative actions especially collective and property rights for marginalized communities as identified by the constitution to enable collective development of the Uganda as a whole.
Now attention should also be given to judicial reforms. The judiciary has the prime responsibility to provide justice on time and in accordance with the law. This delay is one of the major reasons for which our judiciary is getting it wrong. One of its major reasons is that almost 150 cases are referred to a judge every day, which is too much. There must be stringent provisions to discourage frivolous litigation and enforcement of court orders. Justice centres must be established in different local communities to sensitize citizens about their right and basic laws. The most important reform is to bring back the impartiality in determination of cases and that is fundamental in reviving our judicial system and curing Uganda from the evil of corruption.
The writer is a lawyer and Chief Executive Officer, Youth for Green Communities (YGC)