On behalf of the Judiciary of Uganda, which I am privileged to head, I take this opportunity to profusely thank Your Excellency for personally gracing the 4th Annual Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial, despite your very busy schedule.
I also warmly welcome all the other distinguished persons here present on this occasion.
I believe a host of Judicial officers, other members of the legal fraternity, and other esteemed Ugandans are remotely, but keenly following these proceedings via Speech by CJ – Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial, 2021
I appreciate your individual participation in this function which is of enormous importance to the Judiciary and the entire country.
It was 49 years ago, last week, specifically on the 21st September, when operatives of the ignoble regime of Idi Amin crudely and blatantly abducted Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka – the first Ugandan national
to become Chief Justice of Uganda – from his Chambers in the High Court Building, and ‘disappeared’ him.
The Judiciary of Uganda has, for the 4th successive year running now, accorded the indomitable fallen
Chief Justice a deserving memorial in honour and recognition of his remarkable contribution to multiple facets of the Ugandan society of his time, as a private legal practitioner, politician and statesman who cherished living in a country governed on the basis of a democratic dispensation, and observance of the rule of law, and respect for human rights, and as a judicial officer where his commendable career pursuit was cut short by forces of evil because of his uncompromising stance on the issues of justice and rule of law, and defence of human rights, for which he paid the ultimate price.
The theme for this year’s memorial: Administration and Delivery of Justice through the Years”, is derived from the Book by Hon. Chief Justice Samuel Wako Wambuzi who was the immediate successor of
Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka; and who also presided over the Judiciary of Uganda for an aggregate period of over two decades; namely from 1971 to 1975, 1979 to 1980 and 1986 to 2001.
There is arguably no better person to speak with authority about the metamorphosis of the administration of justice in Uganda than Chief Justice Wambuzi who has had such an unequalled tenure at the helm of the Ugandan Judiciary; and who continues to demonstrate that the Ugandan Judiciary is his other home.
To the Judicial Officers and all the Justice service providers of this country, we must always take cognizance of the fact that Chief Justice Ben Kiwanuka has set the bar for the administration of justice very high for us.
Therefore, in the exercise of our mandate, we must always be driven by the need to respect and protect the rights of everyone, advance the rule of law, and promote the cause of justice in accordance with the oath we each took to “do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as by law established and in accordance with the laws and usage of the Republic of Uganda without fear or
favour, affection or ill will”; and at the end of which oath we beseeched the Lord God to help us live by that oath.
There is no denying that the cancer of corruption exists in the Judiciary.
But this is because the Judiciary is an integral part of our society, which has sadly been pervaded by this monster.
There is the endemic delay in rendering justice, and unacceptable conduct within the Judiciary in the
name of independence in the exercise of judicial function.
These negate the ideals for which Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka paid with his life. Justice must never ever be for sale. It is monstrously repugnant to turn justice into a commodity; thereby according justice to the highest bidder.
The Judiciary administration has zero tolerance for the repugnant ill of corruption. But let me hasten to say this. The fight against real or perceived corruption in the Judiciary cannot be left to the Judiciary administration alone; and can never be successful when our society tolerates corruption or adores corrupt persons.
The fight against corruption is our individual and collective responsibility. Corruption is an abomination that must be confronted head on. We must all do what it takes to make corrupt practices a very unworthy enterprise.
We cannot claim to be honouring Benedicto Kiwanuka when cases take over 5 years in Court to dispose of; when litigants wait in vain and die of old age without seeing justice done, when our justice processes are
characterised by case backlog.
We cannot truly honour Benedicto Kiwanuka when our people still have to travel 200 Kms to find a high
Court service, or travel 70 Kms to find a Magistrate’s Court! We shall only truly render justice to our people when Court premises, like safe water, are within a walking distance from those who seek justice.
We can only truly serve justice to our people when a litigant can file a case on the 1st of January and get his judgement not later than 31st December of the same year. Namibia has done it. Malaysia has done it. We can
surely do it.
The magic lies in correlation of the number of judicial officers with the size of the population; and, in addition, the pursuit of technological innovations.
On the other hand, we continue to witness victims of torture and other abuse of human rights brought to Court. Cases of fabricated evidence that cannot stand in Court abound. Instances of refusal to respect
decisions of Courts are frequently reported.
All these unfortunate practices pour cold water on the memory of Benedicto Kiwanuka. It is on a day such as this when we honour the memory of our gallant judicial officer that we must each of us rededicate and recommit ourselves to ensure that this country enjoys the rule of law and democratic dispensation.
We can only honour our fallen Chief Justice when Court Orders are enforced timely, and respected by every person and authority in the land; and when torture, unlawful arrests and detentions, and ‘quid pro quo’ in exchange for justice is history.
We can only overcome the ills that afflict the Judiciary and our society at large when the Judiciary, the legislature and the executive are acting in concert with one voice to ensure that the much desired and pursued socio-economic transformation of our country takes place.
The Judiciary has taken strides towards removal of the impediments that have inhibited us from effective delivery of justice to our people.
We have embarked on a number of priorities including the implementation of the Judiciary Strategic Plan V, 2020/2021 to 2025/2026 which is hinged on the following Strategic Objectives:
a. To enhance equitable access to Judiciary Services;
b. To improve Court processes and case management;
c. To strengthen the use of ICT in the administration of justice;
d. To develop and support the Judiciary workforce and institutional capacity;
e. To improve coordination, partnerships and accountability;
f. To improve public awareness and the image of the Judiciary; and
g. To enhance resource mobilization and management. In the pursuit of this strategic plan, the Judiciary has received an unprecedented boost from the government.
This financial year 2021/2022, the Judiciary budget has seen a massive leap by being doubled from UGX 199bn/= where it had been stuck for years, to UGX 375bn/=. I seize the opportunity of this occasion to express our profound appreciation to Your Excellency for the stand you have taken and demonstrated to ensure that the Judiciary budget rises up; and with the undertaking that in the medium term it is destined to clock UGX 800bn/=.
This will provide the people of and in Uganda with a robust and effective Judiciary whose services are felt by the people.
The effect of this boost has already manifested itself in the targeted recruitment, this financial year, of a fairly sizeable number of judicial officers; namely 14 judges of the High Court, 32 Chief Magistrates, 142 Grade One Magistrates.
A corresponding number of support staff will also be recruited. Some of the areas that have not had judicial officers will do so this financial year.
We seek to strengthen coordination linkages between the Judiciary, and other Arms of Government, the Justice Law and Order institutions, Development Partners and all the other Justice providers.
Independence of the three arms of government does not mean a prohibition of these arms from working together.
A country can only achieve enduring peace, stability, and socio-economic development when the three arms of government operate in tandem with each other.
They each have functions clearly spelt out in the Constitution; and for effective government service, their functions are complementary to one another. They are each accorded oversight responsibility over each other to ensure full realisation of the peoples’ desires.
I once again extend my appreciation to all of you for turning up physically or by remote means, for the Memorial Lecture in honour of Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, to celebrate his laudable and memorable contributions to the administration of Justice and the rule of law in our country.
I wish to thank the Hon. the Deputy Chief Justice and the Organising Committee that he chaired, for the success of this day; given that we are operating against a backdrop of the menace of COVID-19 pandemic.
May God Bless Us All.
Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny – Dollo