BY PPU REPORTER
President Yoweri Museveni has requested Judges to use the available resources accorded to the Judiciary to ensure justice for all Ugandans. He was officiating at the opening of the 24th Annual Judges’ Conference held at Mestil Hotel, Kampala.
The four-day event is running under the theme: “The Judiciary Transformation Agenda: Enhanced Access to Justice.”
“What if the money is not enough, what do we do? Should we say that a country without money will have no justice? Is that what you are saying? Me, my answer is when we were in the bush, controlling the Luweero Triangle, we were having serious justice without money. I have proof for that because in Luweero I was the Chief Justice and the President. I was combining both. We had justice but no money. I have told these people that it is not acceptable to say that a country cannot defend itself if it has no money. We shall defend ourselves with or without money,” President Museveni said.
The President made the remarks in response to Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo's request to have the Judiciary's budget enhanced so that they can be able to improve the arm's infrastructural setup and recruit more judicial officers to deal with the judicial challenges they face.
“Your Excellency, when these reforms are funded and implemented, we hope to have a robust Judiciary that is accountable and capable of delivering quality and timely justice in accordance with our Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan,” Justice Alfonse Owiny - Dollo told Gen. Museveni.
However, according to President Museveni, currently, the Judiciary needs to plan well for the funds allocated to them to execute their mandate as Government comes up with other means of increasing their budget in the near future.
“In this particular case, I want to separate the strategy and the ideology from the actual decision because when I met the Chief Justice the other year, we set a target of Shs800billion for the Judiciary because by that time the Judiciary was getting around Shs190billion in a budget of Shs45Trillion. So, the Shs800billion budget target, in my view, is achievable if we plan better,” he assured.
“For us, we believe that we can have the army even without money; we can have justice even when we don't have money or don't have enough money but the way we stand now, we actually got some money. It is just a question of planning, not the ideology because if the ideology is ‘no money no justice’ then I don't agree because some of the countries don't have money at all.”
The President also urged the Judges to adopt and share with colleagues the National Resistance Movement Government's core principles of Patriotism, Pan-Africanism, Socio-economic Transformation and Democracy if they want to be part and parcel of the system's development agenda.
“So, these are the principles we pushed. Some of our colleagues used to say that we are wrong, but history has proved us correct. Because of those principles, when we came into power we were able to build a national political force, and a strong army and that is why Uganda has been peaceful all these years,” he added.
Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo thanked President Museveni for understanding the critical role the Judiciary plays in the development of Uganda.
He explained that the conference is a forum where judicial officers of the Upper Bench of Uganda meet once a year to confer, share experience, audit their performance in the immediate previous year and to chat the way forward for the current calendar year.
“Your Excellency, we thank you for supporting the Judiciary agenda. We look forward to your continued support in enhancing our budget in order to enable us to achieve these milestones,” the Chief Justice said.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Norbert Mao, informed the President that the Administration of the Judiciary Act which he supported throughout its process of enactment until he signed it into law is an important piece of legislation in governing the Judiciary.
“Your Excellency, once the Act is fully operationalised, I am very certain the Judiciary will be sustainably transformed into a new Judiciary that will see a tremendous reduction in and elimination of case backlog, timely delivery of justice, increased investment and economic growth as a result of investor confidence in the justice system of Uganda, taking judicial services nearer to the people, promoting peace, the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country,” Hon. Mao said in a statement read for him by the Attorney General, Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka.
The event was also attended by the Chief Justice of South Africa, His Lordship Hon. Justice Raymond M.M. Zondo, Hon. Justice Angelina Mensah-Homiah of the Court of Appeal of Ghana, Hon. Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe of the High Court of Ghana, Ambassadors and Ugandan judicial officers among others.