28 August 2017

Uganda: Judiciary Strike - Crisis Meeting Called

Photo: Daily Monitor
Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine, left, and Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire in a discussion during the Uganda Judicial Officers Association extraordinary meeting at Kampala High Court last month.

Kampala — The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has called for a crisis meeting with the leadership of the striking judicial officers' body at 3pm today.

The meeting, called by the JSC chairperson, Mr Justice Benjamin Kabiito, is largely to forge a way forward on how to stop the ongoing strike by judicial officers that might cause a constitutional crisis if not stopped in its early stages. The strike has today entered day two.

The president of the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA), Mr Godfrey Kaweesa, last evening said they are open to talks with government and that the strike can only be called off if an unequivocal offer is put on the table.

"The JSC has scheduled a very important meeting with UJOA executive tomorrow (today) at 3p.m. UJOA's position is that the resolution holds and the status quo maintained until a firm and unequivocal offer is put on the table by the executive," Mr Kaweesa said.

Last Friday, all judicial officers who subscribe to the UJOA, laid down their tools in protest of poor remuneration and other welfare related issues that government has failed to address.

The strike by the judicial officers of all ranks has so far seen an unidentified woman miss her wedding that had been scheduled to take place at the weekend.

This was because the bride-to-be, who was on remand at Luzira prison, had been brought to the Anti-Corruption Court last Friday to be released on bail but because of the strike, the magistrate did not release her and she was instead returned to Luzira prison.

This newspaper has also learnt the UJOA executive has written to the acting Chief Justice Steven Kavuma; asking Judiciary to fund for the general assembly of all its members who will then determine on whether to call off the strike or not.

"The purpose of this communication is to request that you support the aforementioned activity so that members can convene to deliberate on whether to vacate or defer the earlier passed resolution. It is only the annual general meeting that has such mandate," the UJOA letter read in part.

The letter further stated: "Under the UJOA constitution, the president and the UJOA executive act as a link between members and other stakeholders like the Judiciary administration, Judicial Service Commission and the public."

The ongoing strike saw litigants last Friday stranded at various courts as judicial officers stayed away from courtrooms.

The officers' petition describes the government's response to their welfare demands as "lukewarm", a scenario they say is unfair since the other two arms of government (Executive and Legislature) are well facilitated.

Core to the welfare issue of salary enhancement, the judicial officers lament that the respective little packages that they earn do not augur well when compared with top earners in other semi-autonomous parastatals and entities like the governor Bank of Uganda who pockets a monthly salary of Shs53m, URA Commissioner General who pockets Shs40m, director NSSF who earns Shs39m and Executive Director of UCC who earns Shs36m.

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