11 December 2012

Uganda: Inquiry Won't Help Judiciary


The Uganda Law Society recently called for a commission of inquiry into alleged corruption in the Judiciary.

The reaction to this call has been mixed. While launching a report on the right to a fair trial in Kampala this week, the Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine, said such an inquiry is unnecessary as the Judiciary has sufficient mechanisms to address grievances directed at its officers.

There is no denying that corruption exists in the Judiciary, just as it does in many other public and private sectors in Uganda today. However, as far as dealing with the vice in the Judiciary is concerned, we're inclined to agree with the Principal Judge. It is, in fact, surprising that lawyers would be at the forefront of calling for such an inquiry as they know better than anyone else how complaints in the Judiciary are handled.

The lawyers also know, better than anyone else, that some of them are guilty of aiding judicial corruption; so, enforcing strict discipline amongst their ranks, to begin with, would go a long way to fight the vice. The Judiciary does have mechanisms, particularly the Judicial Service Commission, through which complaints against judicial officials can be addressed.

Where such mechanisms are weak, the lawyers should use their power to push the boundaries and make them work rather than seek quick fixes that might prove counterproductive. A commission of inquiry would have the effect of undermining the existing institutions. It would also unwittingly give politicians an opportunity to meddle in the affairs of the Judiciary.

There is a tendency in Uganda to think that a commission of inquiry is a panacea for all problems. That is wrong. In fact, one can hardly mention a single case where a commission of inquiry has solved a pressing problem.

From corruption in the police force to the closure of banks to the Uganda Revenue Authority probe, commissions of inquiry in Uganda have been a waste of time and money. The lawyers should, therefore, be careful what they are asking for. It might bring more than they bargained for.

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