President Yoweri Museveni has accepted the request by the judiciary to have a Chief Magistrate for every district in the county to ease the dispensation of justice.
Speaking during the opening of the new law year on Friday at the High Court in Kampala, Museveni said he wants a corrupt-free judiciary that has the peoples’ confidence and that ensures quick dispensation of justice.
“I want to see a corrupt-free Judiciary. The people’s confidence in the courts of law is crucial. The government is interested in seeing commercial cases especially those of investors and corruption discharged quickly. I am pleased with the arrangement of automating the courts through the use of technology,” he said.
President Museveni congratulated Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dolo and Deputy Chief Justice Richard Butera upon their appointments to the high ranks in the judiciary and expressed his confidence in them noting that they are officers who have got a long and good service record.
He urged them to ensure that the people of Uganda get the justice they deserve. The President agreed with the judiciary that it would be appropriate to recruit more judicial officers in a phased manner.
Museveni pledged to fulfill his promise towards improving the benefits of the judicial officers and to invite the Chief Justice for a meeting in order to discuss in detail measures that need to be taken towards improved service delivery in the judicial service.
President Museveni reminded the judicial officers that Uganda is a former failed state and called on them to bear in mind the national needs while working with limited resources. He was pleased to note that the judicial officers have been part of reviving and promoting the state.
He noted that government resolved to train a strong army capable of defending the country, building roads, providing electricity and expanding education because, without these, the economy would not grow.
The President also reasoned with the Chief Justice on the proposal of appointing a Chief Magistrate for every district and a magistrate in every constituency.
The Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dolo revealed that currently the service is constrained by a shortage of manpower.
He noted that they only have 43 Chief magistrates serving 146 districts, adding that the magistrates run operations covering five to six districts, a situation he said is not favorable in the service.
He said that the current staffing covers only 47% of the established structure and that the members of the public cannot get full judicial service when there is a shortage of manpower.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ephraim Kamuntu commended the President for recognizing the role of the judiciary in transforming Uganda into a modern state and the people of Uganda for exercising their democratic rights.
Later, the President flanked by the Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament , Rebecca Kadaga and other Justices officiated at the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Buildings in Kampala.
The structures will cost shs 63 billion, according to Uday Kiran, Contract coordinator of Seyani Brothers and Co. Ltd and Parbat Siyani construction Ltd joint venture.
The judiciary has for a number of years complained of understaffing that they said has rendered service delivered ineffective.
Before his term expired, former Chief Justice Bart Katureebe on several occasions expressed concern over the increasing number of court cases yet there is inadequate number of judges to handle them
The current Chief Justice has also re-echoed the same sentiments on several occasions but President Museveni has always dampened the hopes of increasing the number of judges and magistrates saying there are many other things that need to be tackled yet the resources are not enough.
“You are not the only ones understaffed. Even the police are also grappling with manpower shortage. If we had all the policemen we needed then we would have no money to work on roads or electricity. You cannot increase manpower because we may not have money to pay them. You cannot convince me to stop working on the roads or electricity to pay salary for more judges,”Museveni said in January 2019 while opening the annual judges conference in Kampala
However, during his campaigns for another term, Museveni said Uganda now has enough money to do everything it wants.
“The roads we have constructed and the electricity we have extended to all areas is because of the wise decisions we made. It is because of our wisdom that we were able to know that if we do one thing, it will lead to another and that way we help the country prosper. We even have fuel that we have not touched. We now have enough money to do everything we want. That shows that our wise decisions have paid off,”Museveni said.
If the latest development of accepting to have a Chief Magistrate in every district is to go by, it lends credence to what the President said during his campaigns for another term.