The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) despite a few challenges, continues to play a significant role in the development of Uganda not only by way of defending the country’s borders but also through various social-economic interventions that are evident in sectors such as health, engineering, emergence rescues, agriculture, engineering and commerce.
The UPDF has also played an important legal role by prosecuting its own officers and civilians involved in armed robbery, terrorism and related acts. I see no wrong therefore that the military should help handle some civil cases since the institution has qualified legal personnel.
It is amasing that using little resources, the UPDF General Military Court Martial handles its work better than the conventional courts in Uganda. The military court is cognizant of time in case dispensation but also issues of corruption cannot be mentioned here. We have had judicial officers in conventional courts arrested for taking bribes to defeat justice, the same has not happened in the General Court Martial system.
That is why I urge policy makers to allocate UPDF a bigger role in the national judicial system so that they help poor Ugandans get justice in the shortest time possible, moreover at a cheaper cost. The process in normal courts is so tedious and unfair to the poor Ugandans who form the majority of the country’s population, now estimated to be about 40 million people. Yet those who run the conventional judicial system in the country are doing less to address the challenges that the poor face in courts, despite the pledges the judiciary makes every year to speed up court processes.
There is evidence that simple cases which should have been resolved within a month or two have taken over 10 years, just because some judicial officers in connivance with lawyers representing both parties want to continue benefiting financially from those cases at the disadvantage of poor Ugandans. This could also explain why a backlog of cases still exists within the conventional courts, despite the usual complaints that the courts are understaffed and its officials underpaid.
It does not surprise Ugandans for instance, that the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe has of recent set up a six- member taskforce to investigate allegations of corruption in the judiciary following public outcry as well as media reports on the vice. The team headed by Ms Immaculate Busingye, the Inspector of Courts is already in the field and is expected to make a report within 60 days.
“The team will then receive the media recordings with the view of identifying the corrupt staff who will then be invited to have an interface with the investigating team of the court that will make a report to Katureebe on the way forward by September 30, 2019,” said Katureebe after assigning the team.
Much as in this investigation Katureebe seems to target those involved in receiving bribes from the public, it is a fact that corruption in courts is a coordinated arrangement carried out right from court clerks, registrars and the judges in connivance with advocates whose clients are on the wrong side of the law. As such, poor Ugandans are unable to win cases, yet they have no extra money to ask for a review of the same cases they have lost, even though there is a provision for appeal.
For instance, there is an old lady in Mbale town called Alice Kimono Kimaswa,85, who has been suffering in Mbale High Court over 10 years, trying to rescue her property from the hands of a false prophet Michael Mukhono who is earning rent from it as she goes hungry. In fact he as well stays on it with his family.
Mrs. Alice Kimaswa’s case was on November 11, 2012 handled by Judge V.T. Zuhurikize who ruled by way of a consent decree but the old lady says the decree was later doctored to benefit the cheating false prophet Mukhono aka ‘Musayi’ whose is now on the run due to various land related cases and the security agencies in the region seem not to care about his whereabouts despite the fact that both police and Mbale High Court need him for crimes he has committed.
Despite the old lady Alice Kimaswa possessing all the documents including a land title and new lease to show prove of ownership, Mbale High Court and security agencies have refused to do the right thing to order that the pastor leaves the old lady’s property. There are allegations that the pastor bribes them. A senior judge from Bugisu region is aware of this case much as his jurisdiction is in Western Uganda.
Interestingly, before he fled, false prophet Mukhono had failed to fulfil the terms of the consent decree since 2012, as ordered by judge Zuhurikize, which should have made him to leave the place but Mbale High Court due to disrespect of poor Ugandans has failed to enforce to set aside the decree and let the old lady occupy her premises.
Interestingly also it is evident that Mbale High Court has been allowing Magellan Olubwe of Olubwe &Co. Advocates to represent false prophet Mukhono and other clients, well knowing that his firm is not legible to do so and that was proved when the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs last year published his name and firm. Olubwe& Co Advocates also operate their offices on the same property that false prophet Mukhono wants to grab from the old lady.
The old lady Alice Kimaswa also lodged her case with Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s land commission but they have not responded to her. She thought the commission could help her given that the court process has made almost sell all her land and animals to cater for legal fees and other costs.
Point from the above is that the army is unlikely to deal with fraudsters and make such rulings that favour the rich against the poor. The military courts could be of use in such cases, thus if the law was amended to accommodate them.
UPDF is both a conventional and revolutionary army whose role cuts across all sectors. We have heard the soldiers treat patients in hospitals whenever doctors and other health professionals strike. This means the military can play a bigger role in the judiciary as well if its legal role can be expanded to handle civil cases.