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Uphold rule of law to achieve vision 2040

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Added 23rd March 2017 10:53 AM

This predicament was further highlighted in the first quarterly state of the rule of law report released on Tuesday March 21, 2017 by the Uganda Law Society at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

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Jamidah Namuyanja work with the Legal Aid Service Providers Network

This predicament was further highlighted in the first quarterly state of the rule of law report released on Tuesday March 21, 2017 by the Uganda Law Society at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

By Jamidah Namuyanja

In a space of only three months, since January 2017, the rule of law in Uganda has faced tremendous questions and challenges bringing to the fore the impression that judicial independence is at a crossroads.

The situation is graver when those expected to be the vanguards of justice contribute to its desecration, case in point being the interim injunction by Justice Steven Kavuma, the Deputy Chief Justice barring Parliament from deliberating on the peculiar award of sh6 b to 42 public officials for winning two tax disputes; against Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow Uganda.

This predicament was further highlighted in the first quarterly state of the rule of law report released on Tuesday March 21, 2017 by the Uganda Law Society at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

The report details a number of unfortunate scenarios and challenges faced by the Justice Law and Order Sector in the administration of justice such as; the lack of mutual respect among the three arms of government; complete disregard of due process leading to non-compliance with court orders, human rights violations in cases like the recent Kasese killings, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, among others.

There’s an African adage that “when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”, which rings true today because the poor, vulnerable and marginalised are the most affected when those in power abuse the rule of law.

It is the poor widow in Lwengo district whose land has been fraudulently taken that will fail to access justice when the state that should accord it to her has time and again raised obstacles to passing the National Legal Aid Policy through which she would seek legal remedy. She will suffer when the Administration of Justice Bill that would improve access to justice through more court structures, judges and magistrates, among others is not passed.

Another recent report by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative dubbed “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” showed the cost of pre-trial detentions, another thorn in our already flawed justice system. Where is the light that those maliciously accused of crimes they did not commit are supposed to look out for at the end of Uganda’s justice tunnel?

The above issues may not be new but their continued lack of prioritisation tells of a hopeless society hence the apathy that has come to characterise citizens’ demand for services.

The Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) in a 2016 media and advocacy campaign calling on policy makers to fast-track passing the National Legal Aid Policy and bill emphasised the linkage between access to justice and economic development in light of the national vision 2040 one of whose overarching pillars is respect for democracy and the rule of law.

The message to our newly elected leaders is to consider supporting the uplifting of their constituents from the jaws of economic despair by legislating for fair policies and laws that seek to protect the most poor, vulnerable and marginalised and restoring their hope for a dignified life. A life where citizens know and demand for their rights to be upheld; a life of equity where all are able to get a fair hearing and access timely justice.

This can only be achieved when the rule of law is applied across the board, when no one is above the law regardless of their standing in society. Only then shall justice gain a semblance of meaning in this jungle that our country has become.

If we are to move anywhere near to achieving vision 2040, the rule of law must be upheld always!

The writer work with the Legal Aid Service Providers Network

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