24 January 2018

Tanzania: Lawyers Cautiously Welcome Chief Justice's Warning

Dares Salaam — Lawyers yesterday welcomed Chief Justice Ibrahim Juma's warning against politicians meddling in the independence of the Judiciary, but warned that falling professional standards in the key branch of the State may compound the problem.

They feel that the Judiciary itself needs a radical change of attitude and enforce professionalism so that it can credibly and effectively defend its constitutionally guaranteed independence. The CJ convened a press conference yesterday ahead of Law Day celebrations to mark the start of the court calendar where he attacked people interfering with judicial independence and defying its orders.

He said under the Constitution, the powers of administering justice were solely vested in the Judiciary, adding that there should not be anyone pretending to possess such powers.

"Anybody who does so will be dealt with accordingly...this is the message I want to send to wananchi," he said.

He urged other authorities not to interfere with the independence of the Judiciary to avoid unnecessary disputes.

"We are going to be stricter on this at the magistrates' and judges' level in dealing with anyone who crosses over to interfere with our decisions and independence. I appeal to all government leaders to refrain from meddling with the issues that are within the rights, status and constitutional authority of the Judiciary," he said.

But lawyers who spoke to The Citizen said the CJ would have to be bold enough by first putting his house in order and confront top government leaders whom, they added, were blatantly interfering with judicial authority by putting political pressure to bend court decisions.

"Not only politicians, but even government executives unashamedly violate court orders. Many statements made by government leaders and politicians are completely against the rule of law and precedents set by courts of law," said Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) executive director Helen Kijo-Bisimba.

She said it was shocking that government leaders were giving judgments as if courts did not exist.

"In a country that claims to respect the rule of law every pillar of the state must work independently. It is very frustrating to see court orders being openly defied by politicians and government leaders," Dr Kijo-Bisimba added.

A seasoned legal expert, Prof Abdallah Safari, said he was not happy with the performance of the Judiciary, saying the branch had to undergo radical change to enhance professionalism.

"As an active professional since 1979, I have never witnessed the Judiciary being interfered with by the government as is the case now. The standards of professionalism in the Judiciary are lower than at any other time in history," he said.

Former Tanganyika Law Society president Francis Stolla said it was just as well that the CJ had come out to tell the public that he was putting more effort into ensuring the enforcement of court decisions.

"It is sad to note that courts issue orders, but which are not implemented, particularly by government officials and politicians," he said.

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