Uganda adopts traditional justice system to solve case backlog

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Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo and Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister Charles Peter Mayiga interact at the Supreme Court in Kampala on May 28, 2024. PHOTO/JULIET KIGONGO

What you need to know:

  • Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister Charles Peter Mayiga said embracing the traditional justice system will further peace amongst people.

Arrangements have been finalized to dispense justice using the traditional mechanisms for citizens to live harmoniously in their respective communities, the judiciary has announced.

The initiative due to be piloted in Buganda Kingdom is seen as a measure to resolve disputes expeditiously and reduce case backlog in Uganda’s judicial system.

Speaking after a 2-hour closed door meeting with Buganda Kingdom Peter Mayiga on Tuesday, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo said studies reveal that informal mechanisms of justice are holding people together in Uganda.

“We made a decision that if this is what is going to bring us together then why not we take charge? Why do not we now formalize that which is informal, give the guidance and make it part of our judicial work,” he said in Kampala. 

“Because then you are going to have a situation where hundred percent of the disputes are resolved formally using what we call the informal sector,” he explained.

Under the traditional system, disputes will also be settled by trusted mediators, sometimes appointed by the kingdom’s prime minister.  

“…as in the USA, only 2 percent go to the courts of law and the 98 percent are resolved by the formal Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.  The difference is that we have the informal sector doing the work but for them they have the alternative dispute resolution mechanism formalized,” Owiny-Dollo told journalists.

According to him, people in Buganda, Acholi, Lango and Karamoja region have been trained to start the alternative justice system which will constantly be under review.

“I know it will work because in small ways-ADR is already being applied in various courts,” said the chief justice, adding that “as soon as we get people with integrity to mediate, we will facilitate the processes.”

Mayiga said embracing the traditional justice system will further peace amongst people.

“I and my colleagues are very receptive to the idea being developed by the CJ. From our Ugandan or African setting, where justice is dispensed quickly, quicker development is witnessed,” he noted.

Mayiga highlighted need for systems in the country to make the citizens feel that justice has been dispensed, suggesting that “the alternative justice system will go a long way in ensuring that justice is seen.”

Further, he believes that when the formal judicial system recognizes the traditional systems in different communities, a significant burden will be lifted off the judiciary.