OP-ED: The Need to Urgently Overhaul Uganda’s Judicial System

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By  Abu Matovu

Oslo, Norway: I am writing to urgently address the issue of the slow pace of justice delivery in our courts, which is adversely affecting countless litigants across the nation. 

Hundreds or even thousands of unresolved cases are added to the dockets, initiating a seemingly endless journey for those seeking justice. In my personal experience, I faced the inconvenience of being given the wrong court date in Uganda and I had to schedule a flight just two days later.

The lack of clarity on when matters will be determined exacerbates the frustration experienced by litigants. This slow pace is causing uncomfortable, inconveniences, and even hopelessness, leading some to resort to self-help.

I’m currently dealing with a case at the Makindye Magistrate’s court, where I sued a gentleman for leaving my rented house uninhabitable. I had to invest over Shs 20 million in renovations. Now, the court claims I didn’t attend yet I was given incorrect dates and received no communications to rectify the mistake.

This situation emphasizes the urgent need for reform within our judicial system. I also share the heart-wrenching experience of my late grandmother, Hajjati Fatuma (R.I.P), who won a 20-year land wrangle case in Luwero on February 28, 2023, only to pass away three days later on March 3 with the court papers scattered all over the bathroom floor. The emotional and mental turmoil our family endured cannot be adequately described.

This tragedy prompts a call to our esteemed parliament to enact laws establishing specific timeframes for resolving civil and criminal cases. Leveraging technology, such as email, SMS, or WhatsApp messages, could aid in the fast dispensation of justice, ensuring transparency and keeping parties informed.

Why can’t we introduce rules specifying a maximum duration for criminal trials from lower courts to the Supreme court, not exceding 12 months? Implementation of such measures, even considering public holidays, could significantly reduce unnecessary delays in justice administration and delivery.

I kindly request your support in bringing attention to this matter through your esteemed platform. It is crucial to address this issue and ensure that justice is not only served but also served on time.

As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. Together, we can work towards a faster and more efficient criminal justice delivery system, reaping endless benefits. When a court messes you up, you remain messed up. It should be unacceptable.

The author is a Ugandan based in Oslo, Norway

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