The Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny- Dollo hopes that Ugandans will force aspiring political leaders to make commitments that will guarantee improved delivery of judicial services.
Dollo believes that the ongoing electioneering period presents a perfect opportunity for Ugandans to pick leaders who will empower and establish a fully independent and efficient judiciary.
“We must ask the other arms of government [executive and legislature] to strengthen the judiciary… why should it be easy to create a sub-county and a district but difficult to up the number of judges? These should be the questions Ugandans need to ask the aspiring leaders ahead of the elections,” Dollo said.
He was speaking at the second Legal Aid Innovations conference at Mestil Hotel, Nsambya near Kampala, hosted by Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET).
He said that with the current staffing in the judiciary, the courts cannot do much to reduce the case backlog.
“Currently, I have 60 judges of the High Court serving a population of about 40 million people. That means that one judge has to serve about 600,000 to 700,000 people. This is why you hear of case backlog,” the Chief Justice said.
Ordinarily, Dollo argued, whenever a new district is created, a Grade One magistrate has to be recruited to extend judicial services to the new district.
He emphasized the need for legal aid service providers to come up with more innovations that will enable the public to acquire easy and affordable services from the justice system.
According to Dollo, justice will always be meaningless if people can’t realize their rights through the courts of law, or access to institutions that can help them resolve disputes effectively.
Quoting the 2016 report by The Hague Institute for International Law, Dollo said that 80 percent of Ugandans cannot afford the services of a lawyer while 5 percent don’t trust the judicial service system.
Dollo argued that legal service provision is not about representing people in courts but about helping people to access justice without unnecessary delays or hurdles.
Uganda’s ambassador to the Benelux countries, Mirjam Blaak said that innovations in legal aid service provision are needed more now than ever before especially in developing countries like Uganda.
She explained that the increase in human rights abuses and gender-based violence cases during the lockdown calls for more innovative ideas to help rescue citizens.