Residents of Ankole sub-region have accused court employees and lawyers of sabotaging and delaying justice.
During the launch of Small Claims Procedure, an alternative method of dealing with civil proceedings in Mbarara District on Friday, some people whose cases have dragged on or been allegedly mismanaged broke down as they recounted what they experienced in trying to get justice.
The complaints ranged from extortions, delays in handling cases, bias, delays in accessing judgments, records of proceedings and collusion between lawyers and magistrates.
“Some people claiming to be workers asked me to pay Shs1.7m for the release of my son. I paid but it did not happen. I reported the matter to authorities in court and showed them who took the money. They promised to refund the money but I have never got it,” 70-year-old Zed Nduhura said tearfully.
Mr Pius Biryabarema, another grieved client, said: “Your case is concluded but you are still struggling to access the documents for a month.”
The Mbarara Resident District Commissioner, Mr Nickson Kabuye, wondered why the Judiciary quickly handled cases involving “big” people while “small” cases take years.
“An election petition is fixed in a very short time and is disposed of, a big shot (person) has stolen money in a short time is out on bail, case solved, why this kind of injustice?” Mr Kabuye asked.
Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine, who was the chief guest, said it has taken them long to build public confidence in the Judiciary, but added that most of the delayed cases had been handled.
He, however, acknowledged there were still some court clerks and lawyers who manipulate litigants to deny or delay them appearances before judges and adjourn cases to extort money. Justice Bamwine cautioned the public against bribing court employees.
Justice Bamwine said small claims procedure will enable administration of justice on small claims to be expedited cheaply and support vulnerable and the poor since it does not require services from lawyers.