The Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, has decried the underfunding and understaffing of the judiciary, adding that judicial officers are doing their best to handle the cases before them but the filing of cases has tripled stretching them beyond their human capacity.
“The Judiciary needs 530 Grade One Magistrates but we have only 192. We are aware that resources are scarce and we know there are many competing interests. But the justice needs of the community are not receiving the priority they deserve. We need to choose at this point whether to appoint more Magistrates or increase the number of MPs,” he noted.
Katureebe was speaking at the opening the annual judges conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo yesterday (Monday). He also called for the reestablishment of local council courts.
“LC 1 and 2 Courts need to be reestablished to address millions of Justice needs that the formal system cannot handle,” he said.
Katureebe also called for the respect of court decisions by government.
“Judicial independence is fundamental to any democracy. There is need to respect the decisions of court. It is unacceptable to have other functionaries of government purporting to review the decisions of Court,” he said.
Responding to complaints raised by Katureebe, President Yoweri Museveni revealed that the underfunding of the Judiciary is his own making.
He said one of the main reasons for underfunding of judiciary is because of wastage.
“We need to manage three challenges, which are now constitutionalised: Wastage, Corruption and Under Collection of Taxes. If we manage those three, we’ll be sure that we’ll have the resources around. At least Ushs4,000 billion is given to the road sector every year, compared to the Ushs134 billion allocated to the Judiciary. That’s how I planned it…I am the authour of underfunding in the Judiciary,” Museveni said.
He advised the Judiciary that if its resources are scarce, then it should prioritise cases starting with murder, sexual crimes, commercial cases, land and the others can follow.
“Homicide, rape, commercial and land cases should be given priority in the courts. If there is going to be backlog, let it be of cases of divorce, assault and the like. Scattering the little resources we have is very dangerous. When we do this, we do not achieve anything.”
On the issue of salary increment of judicial officers, he said government is now in position to do something as long as it saves on this waste.
“With salaries, for now let’s pay well for the professional services we need most. The other categories of staff we can handle later. If we had not invested in other sectors such as electricity, we would be having more judges but this will be disastrous,” President Museveni said.