The Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo has appealed Ugandans to compel the Executive and Parliament to strengthen the Judiciary by increasing the number of judicial officers.
Dollo made the call yesterday while speaking at the annual Legal Aid Innovations Conference in Kampala.
“If the people of Uganda do not task the Executive and Parliament to ensure there is a paradigm shift to have mindset change, I will leave this office of being Chief Justice of Uganda when backlogs have heightened. We must ask the other arms of Government to strengthen the Judiciary of Uganda to be able to render justice to the people,” he said.
“My village in Acholi sub region is 160 kilometers from Gulu High Court. At times they (people) have to travel on bodabodas and you must bring 5 witnesses. And then, there are no law firms in the whole district. In a situation like this, there is a justification for providing both physical access (narrowing the distance) and also cater for the legal minds that help the people access that justice meaningfully.”
“I have one judge in Gulu, I have one judge in Soroti and that one takes care of the traditional Teso district and the whole of Karamoja. The judge sitting in Soroti has to take care of Kaabong. A person comes with 8 witnesses to Soroti and the judge is not available for genuine reasons, and the case can only be adjourned beyond 12 months yet the judge works 7 days a week. A person files a case and has to wait 5 to 8 years before a dispute is dissolved. Many times that dispute has been taken over by events, many times the person with a good case has lost vital witnesses and so and so forth. Then they go to the Court of Appeal, another 4 years. What more do we need to speak for the importance of legal aid in this country?” Owiny Dollo asked.
Currently Uganda, with a population of 45million has only 60 High Court judges, and efforts have been ongoing to raise this number to 82 which was recently approved by Parliament.
According to the Chief Justice, if Judiciary had at least 120 judges of the High Court and more Chief Magistrates and a minimum of 2 magistrates per district, case backlog would be eliminated.
The conference was held under the theme “exploring new innovative approaches for enhancing access to justice and legal aid amidst COVID-19 COVID-19 pandemic.”