By Ronaldo Kalangi
Kampala, Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni told Chief Justice Bart Katureebe on Monday that he will not employ more judges even if the country still needs judicial officers.
Museveni made these remarks on Monday while launching the 21st Annual Judges Conference at Serena Hotel Kampala. The President’s tough comments came after Justice Katureebe reminding him that the judiciary needs more judges to handle the overwhelming case backlog. In response, Museveni told Katureebe that he would not increase the number of judges because the current priorities of the country are infrastructure development like roads and electricity, energy and industrialisation.
“What we can do is increase the remunerations of these numbers so that they can do work instead of hiring more judges who we might not pay due to limited resources,” Museveni said. He advised judiciary to prioritise their challenges if they are to solve the problems they are facing. The four-day Judges’ conference which attracted the top brass of the judicial fraternity, members of the Diplomatic Corps and visitors from abroad, is running under the theme ‘Judicial Ethics, Integrity and Accountability, a Pre-condition for Improved Access to Justice and Sustainable Development.’
Museveni, who first reminded the conference of the differences between State, Nation and Country, said that the State has pillars of authority which are; the Judiciary, the Executive and Legislature. He further explained that the phenomenon of the State has been in existence for a long time and each State has a mission, noting for example that the mission of the Feudal State was to implement feudalism in society. He said Colonial States emerged after the collapse of feudalism which later created neo-colonial states. He told the audience that governments which took over from colonialists made mistakes and one of them was inheriting colonial armies, which gave birth to bad regimes like that of Iddi Amin. The President noted that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) fought the colonial army, defeated it and created a new force that has since maintained peace and security in Uganda. He thus urged the Judiciary to play its crucial role of providing justice to Ugandans. He however, revealed that as the economy continues to improve, priority areas will be considered first and that will include the judicial officers. “On the issue of remuneration, it should be he who is needed that should get the first call on the scarce resources and the first needed are scientists,” he said. He cited Soroti Flying School that was about to be closed because instructors voiced their discontent due to poor remuneration. “Next will be the judicial officers since their job is to execute the role of providing justice to the people,” he said. Turning to understaffing in the Judiciary, the President recommended the improvement of payment of the existing officers. Museveni was glad to note that Katureebe had taken a tough stand on the matter of land issues which was spiraling to unprecedented levels.
While thanking the President for honouring their invitation, Katureebe outlined the achievements registered in the year 2018 and challenges the judiciary is facing. On behalf of the judiciary, he pledged that they will play their role of providing justice to the people of Uganda. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Kahinda Otafiire, said the objective of the conference is to review the performance of the Judiciary in the past year, identify challenges and ways of addressing them.