Budget: More judges to be recruited

President Museveni leaves the High Court in Kampala after officially opening the New Law Year 2022.  PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The Judiciary is encouraging the implementation of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms like mediation, arbitration, plea bargaining and Small Claims Procedure among others to reduce case backlogs.

The government will in the new financial year starting July 2024 recruit ten more judges to Commercial and Land Divisions of the High Court in a bid to boost access to justice in the country and eliminate case backlog.

The Finance Minister Matia Kasaija while reading the 2024/25 budget on June 13 said five more judges will be recruited to the Court of Appeal, to mainly cater for the decentralised Court of Appeal that will be built in Gulu and Mbarara cities.

Late last year, a mini report by the Commercial Court showed that Shs85 trillion is stuck in the same court mainly due to lack of judges to hear the cases.

The government has also promised to invest more in court automation to cover additional ten courts to enhance efficiency, reduce human contact and by extension reduce incidents of corruption.

Promotion of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to complement the formal adjudication of cases is another area that the government is going to prioritise in the new financial year.

Apparently, the Judiciary is encouraging the implementation of ADR like mediation, arbitration, plea bargaining, and Small Claims Procedure among others to reduce case backlogs.

In March 2024, President Museveni applauded the African Chief Justices during their summit in Kampala for reverting to resolving disputes in the African way.

The head of state reasoned that the African way of resolving conflicts like mediation, reconciliation leads to truth-telling unlike the current formal justice system introduced by the colonialists that covers the truth upon hiring a lawyer.

“I’m happy that our judiciaries (African Judiciaries) are realigning themselves with their African roots. The pre-colonial methods of handling disputes must be studied and they have some positive elements in them that the present legal system must emulate. One of the core principles of African jurisprudence was truth finding, this differs from the current legal system which we inherited from the British,” Mr Museveni said in his remarks read out by Vice President, Jessica Alupo in March.

Adding: “In the current system, one hires an advocate to cover his or her mistakes in a courtroom. The lawyer’s job is to minimize his client’s mistakes and maximize his innocence. He is paid to obscure the truth after all attempts to arrive at the truth…”

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has always reasoned that the USA despite being the biggest economy in the world, has resorted to Alternative Dispute Resolution which has seen over 98 percent of civil disputes settled out of court and over 95 percent of the criminal disputes, settled out of court.

The head of the Judiciary is of the view that if the ADR is fully adopted in Uganda, the current case backlog standing at over 43,000 cases will drastically go down.

The other priority that the government will handle in the justice chain in the new financial year is the construction of High Courts in Hoima and Mpigi; Chief Magistrate Courts in Amolatar, Bubulo, Rakai, and Katine; and Magistrate Grade One Courts in Busembatia, Nyarushanje, Rubuguri, and Adwari;

Others are promoting the use of scientific evidence in the investigation and prosecution of cases, including the construction of the National DNA Databank at the Government Analytical Laboratories at Wandegeya, mass enrolment for and renewal of National IDs, and automation of immigration and business registration services, and reforming laws and the due process to ensure faster and expeditious resolution of disputes.