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Be Our Eyes and Ears, CJ tells Religious Leaders

The Judiciary will act more decisively on reports of corruption in the courts if well-meaning members of the public such as the religious leaders bring the evidence, the Chief Justice has said.

Hon. Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, while meeting the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda(IRCU), said majority of the allegations of corruption leveled against the courts are not supported with evidence.

"We really urge you men of God to be our eyes and ears out there. We'll achieve a lot if well-meaning members of the public give us credible information about incidents of corruption," said Hon. Justice Owiny-Dollo.

His call was in quick succession re-echoed by the Principal Judge, Hon. Justice Dr. Flavian Zeija, who urged the religious leaders to record the court staff they consider corrupt and present the evidence. "You should be our eyes. Record some of these elements and give us the evidence. We shall not hesitate to act," he said.

A team of different religious leaders at the meeting with the Chief Justice, was led by Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, the Grand Mufti of Uganda and chairperson of IRCU Council of Presidents. 

Others on the team were Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (Archbishop of Kampala), Dr Daniel Matte(President, Seventh-day Adventist), Dr Joseph Serwadda (Born Again Faith in Uganda) and Bishop Joshua Lwere (National Alliance of Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches in Uganda). Joshua Kitakule, the general secretary of IRCU and Msgr. Charles Kasibante (Vicar General, Kampala Archdiocese), were also in attendance.

The visitors first hailed the Judiciary over some of its recent milestones, which included the adoption of information technologies, which have enhanced justice delivery; devising means to deliver justice to the people of Uganda amidst the COVID-19pandemic, and the passing of the Administration of the Judiciary Act, among others. 

They however, raised a number of issues with the courts, which included: high incidents of bribery and corruption, especially in bail applications, abuse of Judicial authority and lack of integrity, trying of cases outside court jurisdiction, case backlogs and mediation without integrity, among others.

"Some of the Judicial Officers are not ashamed of asking for bribes," said Mufti Mubaje, adding that the court clerks are mostly used by the judicial officers to solicit for the bribes. He also said many litigants are unable to get bail refunds because the money is taken from them in cash by the judicial officers. 

Added Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga: "We see a lot of conspiracy and connivance, especially when the courts handle cases related to land belonging to religious institutions. We have lost majority of these cases because of this connivance."

The Chief Justice urged the religious leaders to provide the Judiciary with the evidence of the alleged corruption, and also provide the list of cases pending in the court system and their challenges.

The Principal Judges aid the Judiciary's Legal Reform Committee would soon develop guidelines on bail applications. "For a long time, discretion has been sitting with the individual judicial officers, but we’ll soon have this process guided,” he said.

The religious leaders pledged to work hand-in-hand with the Judiciary in the area of mediation with a view of eliminating case backlog in the court system. The Chief Justice said the Judiciary would be happy to provide training of the clergy in mediation, and "you could really assist us in some of these matters, say family matters, divorce, land disputes and others," said Justice Dollo.

It was agreed in the meeting that the engagements between IRCU and the Judiciary top administration would be routine.

Posted 9th, November 2020
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