By Richard Wanambwa
Judiciary is one the three arms of Government of Uganda charged with the responsibility to oversee justice in the country. The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda Article 126 (1) spells out the mandate of the Judiciary: “Judicial Power is derived from the people and shall be exercised by the Courts established under this Constitution in the name of the people and in conformity with the law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people.”
The Chief Justice [CJ], in this case Alfonso Owiny-Dollo, is the head of the Judiciary providing leadership for the administration and supervision of all courts in Uganda including those that do not administratively fall within the judiciary.
Unfortunately, there is concern that all is not well in the Judiciary circles of the country after Supreme Court Justice Esther Kisaakyes sued Justice Owiny-Dollo and five others, seeking a permanent injunction restraining them from withholding funds drawn from the consolidated fund and refusing to pay her salary and other allowances without following due process.
Those accused say Justice Kisaakye is not telling the truth and that she is to blame for all that she has or she is going through.
However, Ugandans are wondering why those supposed to deliver justice in the country are fighting each other. Ugandans are worried that such uncalled for fights will impact on service delivery in the judiciary and indeed it has happened as Justice Kisaakye has accused her boss Owiny-Dollo of not assigning her roles.
One wonders why CJ has not assigned his junior duties yet she says she is available and ready for work. Despite the fights, legal minds say CJ is wrong if indeed he has not assigned Kisaakye cases to handle. “This decision, they say, may be meant to punish Kisaakye but at the end of the day, it is Ugandans who lose given that our courts have a backlog of cases waiting to be heard so that justice is delivered in the shortest time possible. We know that justice delayed is justice denied,” a senior lawyer in Kampala said.
Another senior counsel said the CJ has not suspended or dismissed his junior, which means she must work. “If she is reporting on duty, then she must be given work to do. I think the CJ has erred by not giving Justice Kisaakye work,” he said, adding, “Shall we then believe him when he says the Judiciary needs more judges to handle the cases?”
Last year CJ Owiny-Dollo himself was concerned about the case backlog, saying that the judicial officers were over stretched and couldn’t dispose of the cases in time. The CJ explained then that because of the increased population of Uganda estimated to be over 40 million people, the ratio of the judicial officers to this population for example at Supreme Court is that one Judge to 5 million people, Court of Appeal one to 3 million people, High Court one judge to 793,103 people and at the Magistrates’ level each has to attend to a population of 158,075 people.
As the CJ and his junior fight in court, we also remember that on January 18, 2022, heads of High Court circuits held a retreat to deliberate on strategies aimed at reducing case backlog. However, with the fights within the judiciary recurring, it is hard to achieve what the judicial officials set out to do.
One opinion leader is not happy with the fights of bread and butter in the judiciary. He said: “Whether Justice Owiny-Dollo wins the case or not. Whether Justice Kisaakye wins the case or not, they must be reminded that it is a shame that they have exposed themselves in the public that is crying for quick service delivery.”