OPENING the 17th Judges’ Conference at Imperial Golf View Hotel in Entebbe , President Museveni said judges are unnecessarily lenient with murderers
By Pascal Kwesiga & Hillary Nsambu
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has asked judges to sentence murderers to death.
Opening the 17th Judges’ Conference at Imperial Golf View Hotel in Entebbe on Monday, Museveni said judges are unnecessarily lenient with murderers and that the lighter sentences given to killers are eroding the already suffering public confidence in the judiciary.
The President cited key suspects in the recent killings of a Muslim leader Sheikh Abdu Kadir Muwaya in Mayuge district and Tito Okware, an NRM leader in Namayingo district who were apprehended by the police after completing investigations, but were granted bail by courts.
“Those people who willfully kill others should be sentenced to death and hanged under the law. In Mayuge and Namayingo, people were fighting after the key suspects were hurriedly released,” he added.
Museveni noted that releasing murder suspects before spending at least 180 days on remand may force the population to turn “extra-judicial actions”.
“What’s the hurry for? Do you want some of us to turn to extra-judicial actions?” the President asked.
He asked the judges to supervise and guide magistrates who handle petty thieves with kid gloves. Museveni explained that in many villages petty thieves have stolen livestock distributed to the population under the National Agricultural Advisory Services, but they have been treated with kid gloves.
“There is a very big problem in the villages. The thieves are stealing people’s pigs and the police are giving them bond. The police and judiciary are empowering these parasites and some farmers have told me they have given up,” Museveni added.
Commenting on the conference’s theme; the role of the judiciary in accelerating the transformation of Uganda’s economy, Museveni noted that there’s ideological difference between the executive and the judiciary.
“The judiciary ought to play a role in protecting life and property and without doing this we cannot have transformation,” he added.
He asked the judiciary to help him to protect life, property, freedom, stability, morality and governance of the society in line with the constitution.
The President noted that the police and judiciary have not taken the question of law and order seriously by punishing criminals leniently yet the two issues are very critical to development of any country.
According to official prisons records, the last time convicts were killed by hanging in Uganda under NRM government was in 1999 when 29 death row inmates were executed. Fourteen convicts had been killed earlier. Originally, it was mandatory for anyone convicted of a capital offence to be sentence to death.
However, the 2009 Supreme Court ruling on the Constitutional Court petition by Susan Kigula and 417 death row convicts left it to the discretion of the trial judge to hand down a death sentence or not after considering circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence.
The acting Chief Justice, Steven Kavuma, commended the government’s efforts to increase the number of judicial officers, but said the number of judges at the Supreme court need to be raised from eight to eleven, from 12 to 32 at the Court Appeal, from 49 to 82 at the High Court and an extra 40 magistrates and 50 grade one magistrates.
“We want to make the Court of Appeal more visible upcountry,” he added. Kavuma said the judiciary wants to play a role to play in the achievement of Vision 2040 by being efficient, reducing the cost of accessing justice and deepening access to justice.
Vision 2040, which is the government’s long term plan seeks to transform the country from a peasantry state to a prosperous country by 2040, provides that the judiciary will be strengthened to make it more independent, proactive and responsive to the needs of the consumers of its services.
Museveni wants death penalty for killers