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President Museveni Opens 21st Annual Judges Conference
HE the President launching the new innovations while opening the 21st Annual Judges' Conference

HE the President said he is comfortable providing electronic work tools to Judges plus remunerating them as they adjudicate cases.

The President's promise which was made on Monday January 28, 2019, followed a call by Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Bart M. Katureebe, to raise the salaries of Judges since government had two years ago, raised his salary, that of his deputy and of permanent secretaries but left out the Judges.

"Yes, to remunerate the ones we have, I agree. Equipping them electronically, I totally agree but just expanding numbers, numbers when the budget is still small, I don't think is correct," the President said to the Judges during their 21st annual conference.

However, the President was reluctant to heed to another call by the Chief Justice of increasing on the number of judicial officers at almost all levels.

The President advised the Judiciary to work with available numbers as long as they are made happy.

"I am an expert at managing scarce resources. I am somebody who went with 27 guns and defeated an army of 60,000, so if you want to manage scarce resources, invite me to discuss scarcity of manpower in the Judiciary," the head of State told the Judges.

"So if you don't have' what are you going to do because if you don't prioritize at the strategic level, you will fail because you don't have enough resources. I can tell you this.Therefore, rather than insisting on numbers, more numbers when you are not able to manage them, I would rather concentrate on remunerating the ones we have and then see how to manage other shortages," he continued.

To drive his point home on how to deal with few staff in institutions, the President revealed that when he captured power in 1986, the army was expanded to 100,000 soldiers and that by 1990, he predicted failure if they continued having such big numbers.

"This is because the more numbers you have, the more expenditure you roll out. You remember how we reduced the army from 100,000 to 60,000 and to 40,000. That is how we have managed Uganda because a human being needs breakfast, lunch. So don't enter the trap of having so many human beings before you are ready, that is my experience," the President cautioned the Judges.

He also went on to explain that it's when he reduced on the number of soldiers that is how he has managed to defend Uganda, before revealing that he has since received similar requests from the Police Force to increase their current staffing numbers from 40,000 to 80,000 officers.

While making his case to have the number of judicial officers increased, the Chief Justice said the existing staffing gap has deprived the citizens of the justice expectations.

He went on to break down the existing staffing gaps at various court levels.

At the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court, the Chief Justice said there are 11 justices out of the approved structure of 15 with some of them being assigned other responsibilities, regionally and internationally.

He named some of the affected Justices like; Hon. Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire whom he said heads the land probe commission, Hon. Justice Simon Byabakama who is the chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Hon. Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire who is at the East African Court of Justice, Hon. Lady Justice Solomy Bossa who is at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Hon. Justice Remmy Kasule who recently retired upon clocking 70 years.

At the High Court level, the head of the Judiciary decried of how there are only 52 justices and yet the recently approved staffing structure by Parliament is 82, meaning they are less by 30 Judges.

"The gaps at the Court of Appeal has left the court with only 11 Justices to handle a workload of over 7000 cases.At the High Court, we have 52 Judges to handle over 63,143 pending cases. This implies that the workload per judge stands at 1,214 cases, requiring a disposal of 101 cases per month and 5 cases per day for 22 working days in a month. This is humanly impossible," he explained.

At a Magisterial level, the CJ revealed that there are only 44 Chief Magistrates out of the required 100 to serve all the gazetted Chief Magistrates Courts. This, he said leaves a shortage of 56 Chief Magistrates.

He add that the number of pending cases at this level stands at 66,885, implying that the workload per Chief Magistrate is 1,520 cases per annum requiring a disposal of 127 cases per month per Chief Magistrate and 6 cases per day.

"This inadequacy in staffing has greatly affected access to justice as the few judicial officers can only handle a small percentage of the workload in the courts and cannot sufficiently meet the justice needs of majority Ugandans," he lamented.

He added: "In this connection,therefore, I  appeal to government to fill the existing vacancies in the Court of Appeal, to appoint other justices in the court of appeal to temporarily replaces justices who are engaged and serving government in other areas,"

"Government should provide the resources to increase the number of High Court Judges in accordance with the Parliamentary resolution. Implementation of this resolution could be done in a phased manner over three years, with ten Judges recruited per annum," the CJ continued.

Also in his remarks, the Chief Justice assured President Museveni of how the Anti-Corruption Court is doing a tremendous work of adjudicating high profile corruption cases thereby eradicating corruption that has become cancerous in the country.

This year's Judges' conference that will end on Thursday, is running under the theme: "Judicial Ethics, Integrity and Accountability: A Precondition for Improved Access to Justice and Sustainable Development."

Also at the same Judges' conference,President Museveni launched new innovations introduced by the Judiciary that are aimed at improving on justice delivery in the country.

Some of the new innovations included; toll free customer feedback hotlines; 0800111900 and 0417892900,points of E-payments of court fees like bail money, performance enhancement tools, and an online legal research dubbed 'LexisNexis'.

Posted 28th, January 2019
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