By Taha Mohamed
In the Supplement run by the New Vision, Monday October 21st 2013, page 32 and 45 Uganda’s Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), was rated under the Global Competitiveness report among good performers in the region, having attained the 49th position out of 144 countries that were globally surveyed.
This important sector entails a chain of inter-dependent institutions namely the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Police Force , the Judiciary, Prisons Service, Ministry of Local Government, the Uganda Law Reform Commission, the Directorate of Public Prosecution, the Judicial Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission to mention but a few. One can rightly argue that, without this sector there can never be a Government except if it is lawless!
In a situation where various sectors are inter-linked to dispense justice, the rule of law and good governance as indicated above, one finds it so compelling that much effort should be expended on fighting hindrances to fulfilling Justice yet the biggest hindrances as of now are bribery and extortion largely categorized under corruption. Corruption is highly abetting injustice at the expense of justice and the main blame is exerted on two institutions namely the Uganda Police Force and the Judiciary.
Whereas some officials under JLOS are ‘immaculately’ clean in promoting or dispensing justice, others are using JLOS interlinkage complexities to only accumulate wealth through unjust ways and they currently dominate the scene!
One question is whether other relatively clean institutions or individuals under JLOS are capable of bringing this noble consortium to order, at least by rigorously fighting corruption against the vulnerable, to sustain an entirely good image in the JLOS.
In contradiction, some of these other institutions are constitutionally mandated and seem to be having more regulatory authority over the police force and the Judiciary but they have not helped much. For example the Judicial Service Commission could come up with a policy of allowing the public to participate in the vetting process of prospective Magistrates at least on integrity matters. Some judicial officials have been known to be embarrassingly immoral, and in total short of integrity tenets even before occupying these noble offices; the public has helplessly watched on as officials undeservingly climb higher ladders and since judicial officials are not electable to be voted out nor can be put to mob justice like phone snatchers, anger keeps boiling up, it again simmers with painful tolerance! It usually takes the intervention of the already overwhelmed president to reprimand these officials as if other authorities are not allowed to act.
It was also reported that the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, is demanding for Shillings 200 billion to the JLOS infrastructure and to put up an Integrated Information Management System. Less positive impact may be created if the well intended infrastructure only widens the nets for soliciting bribes and decentralizing injustice.
It’s common knowledge that most convicts appear before magistrates after being dubiously ‘couched’ on the pleas to make before court not only by their attorneys but surprisingly with the help of prosecution on condition that some illegal payment is made. In such circumstances justice will always be dispensed strictly to favour the giver and the poor are vulnerable to all forms of injustice! Judgment is put to auction for the highest bidder.
Some individuals continue to bring about falsified charges against members of the public provided such charges serve the interests of accusers. This is common in trade or business and of recent due to speculative and insatiable demands on land; many individuals are wrongly in jail so JLOS should seriously look into these matters.
The write is a Kampala resident and businessman.