23 February 2014

Uganda: Court Processes Should Inspire Public Confidence


Although all institutions of the state derive their legitimacy from the public, this is particularly true for the courts of law, which lie at the heart of the justice system.

This assertion derives from the fact that the Judiciary, ultimately, has a very fluid output - judgment. In fact the old legal maxim is that justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done.

In Uganda, the Judiciary has, despite numerous challenges, played its role in the deepening of democratic culture. And we applaud all those men and women who deliver justice honestly, without fear or favour.

But there are cases that, the challenges notwithstanding, do raise anxiety in the public. For instance, we recently reported that the so- called 'rebel MPs' had to write to the Judiciary administrators complaining that the judgment in their case had delayed by nearly four months - without an explanation being given.

Then there is the matter of Boney Katatumba and Mukesh Shukla. Admittedly, this is a very complex case, and we cannot be guilty of oversimplifying it. Still, the scenes of Wednesday last week, with violence and arrests and evictions, were telling. The confusion was best-captured by the coverage in the daily press.

While New Vision carried a photo of an apparently stranded Katatumba after he was locked out of a property he believes is legally his, Daily Monitor carried a photo of a grateful Katatumba thanking God after his eviction was reportedly stayed by the principal judge.

Many ordinary Ugandans looking at this will be left in a state of confusion, asking questions such as "what is going on?"

Although the matter is not simple, the expectation of the citizenry is that the learned people in the Judiciary are well-placed to handle such complex issues in an organised manner and with a high degree of institutional memory.

Anything with connotations to the contrary has the risk of undermining the public's confidence in a judicial system. That is dangerous and we are hopeful that the wise men and women in the Judiciary will do everything to minimise similar incidents. After all, the Judiciary's ultimate guarantors are the Ugandan public.

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