“For Uganda in particular, the justice institutions are faced with many challenges due to limited budgetary allocations. As a result, there is need to rethink and devise scalable, innovative, low cost solutions that can improve the lives of many justice users''
PIC: Family division judge, Justice Olvia Kazaarwe Mukwaya. Photo by Ronnie Kijjambu
High court judge Justice Olive Kazaarwe has asked Ugandans to embrace innovative ways such as plea-bargaining, small claims procedure among others while seeking justice in a bid to solve the case backlogs in courts.
Kazaarwe said 5% of dispute resolutions take place in courts of law, the courts are too slow in the way they handle cases, citing a low budget allocation from the government hence alternative means of seeking redress should be thought of.
"For Uganda in particular, the justice institutions are faced with many challenges due to limited budgetary allocations. As a result, there is need to rethink and devise scalable, innovative, low cost solutions that can improve the lives of many justice users, "she said.
During the Innovating Justice Conference at Hotel Africana yesterday, Kazarwe said innovations in justice delivery can be made through creating more rights awareness, adopting alternative and appropriate dispute resolution mechanisms.
Uganda was globally ranked at 104 out of 113 countries with a slight improvement from the previous score of the last Rule of Law Index in 2016. She said there is need to enhance efficiency and transparency in the existing legal system to address challenges facing the judicial sector.
However; she said the underperformance of the sector is global in nature because legal systems, legal professionals, social entrepreneurs and innovators in the justice, law and order sector are continually challenged to deliver more fairness.
"The question at the core of the justice innovation approach should not simply be about delivering services.
There is need for additional emphasis on empowering and stimulating stakeholders in the justice system such as judges, prosecution, social workers, academicians, correction services, and social entrepreneurs to continuously improve the existing justice ecosystem," Kazaarwe explained.
Guus de Ruyter, the Project Manager Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL) a non-governmental organisation that advocates for user justice services in Uganda noted that alternative ways of conflict resolutions should be thought of instead of the current judicial systems to reduce case backlog.
"In countries such as Kenya, Ukrain and South Africa among others, people are embracing innovation in judicial systems and this has helped to end many cases in courts of law. These countries' leaders have also sensitised citizens about their rights," he said.
For Uganda's case, Ruyter, said one in every eight people, every year has experienced a legal challenge. "About six million people every year go to courts for justice but only 75% of the cases are solved hence the backlogs," said Ruyter.
Donald Massa, the founder of LegIt, a company that offers online legal services to people told New Vision that very few Ugandans have the capacity to hire lawyers in litigation process and this has in turn made them lose cases to the rich.
"Over 90% of Ugandans lack access to legal representation, we have thousands of lawyers but they are expensive to hire. However, if they can advocate outside court settlement of cases and LC courts, things would be better.