SHEEMA – The Chief Justice, Bart M. Katureebe, on Wednesday laid the foundation stone of Sheema Justice Centres. The structures under construction will house the area Magistrates Court, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and a Police station.
The colourful ceremony took place at the construction site in Nyakishambya Ward in Sheema District. It was attended by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija, Mbarara Senior Resident Judge, Tadeo Asiimwe, representatives from the different Justice, Law and Order Sector institutions as well as leaders from greater Ankole.
The Chief Justice urged the community and its leaders to use the centres for what they are meant for. “We need a strong judicial system so when you come with a bribe to offer the magistrate, you are part of the problem,” he said.
He urged the Judicial Officers to treat court users with courtesy. “The Constitution says we exercise our function on behalf of the people…Treat people with courtesy.” Adding that Judicial Officers should help demystify operations of court through regular engagements with court users.
?“The Justice Centres are just buildings, the justice will be administered by the officcers in those buildings,” the Chief Justice said.
The Chief Justice called for the empowerment of grassroot structures such as Local Council Courts. “According to a recent research by HiiL, a Dutch Organization, only 5% of the Ugandans with justice needs have access to the courts, and 2% have access to lawyers, said the Chief Justice, adding that LC Courts need to be strengthened and office bearers trained and given manuals since people at the grassroots start from there.
The Sheema Resident District Commissioner, Frank Kyereere, said with the construction of the justice Centre, it will be easy for stakeholders to monitor activities of the officers administering justice there.
He noted that the most rampant offence in the district was domestic violence.
The Magistrate Grade One of Kagango Magistrates Court, HW Stella Mwali, said the construction offered a ray of hope since all the frontline JLOS institutions were tenants.
She pointed out that the court lacks basic tools for operation such as computers, printers, power and water. “My Lord all Court documents are typed and printed from the trading Centre…we also use communal toilets which poses a a security threat so these buildings are a milestone,” she said.
HW Mwali added that she serves two stations, Bushenyi CM Court and Kagango Court and that both stations are busy with a workload of 1,000 cases. Previously, both courts had independent Magistrate Grade Ones.
It is against this backdrop that the community leaders asked for a resident magistrate to ensure that there is timely dispensation of justice. Adding that the same needs to be provided with a vehicle to ease their movements.
The Principal Judge commended the district for allocating the district land for construction of the justice Centre. He said the Judiciary leadership would allocate a resident magistrate to ensure timely dispensation of justice. He urged the court users to take advantage of innovations such as Small Claims Procedure, Mediation and Plea Bargaining to improve efficiency in the courts,
Dr Zeija urged the participants to use the Centre to get adequate legal counsel to avoid embarrassing scenarios.
On his part the area MP and Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, Dr Tumwesigye, said the ceremony would be recorded as the first time when the Chief Justice, Minister of Justice, Principal Judge, himself and senior JLOS leaders had gathered in the district to foster administration of justice.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs described the Centre as a legacy for the Chief Justice. Adding that Government is committed to creating an effective legal system for Ugandans. Adding: “We build this on the foundation of the historical mission which is to sustain peace, security and stability of this country.”
The Minister committed to work with the different stakeholders to address all the bottlenecks that make administration of justice hard.
Sheila Wamboga and Danielle Nalukenge