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Special Supplement on the Third Strategic Investment Plan (Part One)

No country can develop without effective courts, laws which are fair and just, the police, prisons, respect for human rights and equality between men and women. It is the reason the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS), which is made up of various institutions involved in maintenance of law and order, administration of justice and promoting respect and observance of human rights, has put in place measures to ensure its services meet public expectations.

JLOS was formed about 1999 to holistically and coherently address bottlenecks in the administration of justice, law and order service delivery in Uganda, which could not be handled by individual institutions. It was meant to coordinate all the law implementing institutions and develop a joint approach to improve their operations and address the challenges to the JLOS overall objective of promoting rule of law. Indeed a lot has been achieved in the last 12 years and JLOS aims at building on this success in the Sector’s Third Strategic Investment Plan of 2012-2017.

JLOS recognizes that the value of good laws lies in their implementation and therefore the first priority target of the JLOS 2012-2017 investment plan is to have strong laws with proper and effective mechanisms of implementation. JLOS will pursue this objective and strengthen the laws in the next five years in order to address the problems and challenges that hampered the rule of law and human rights before the creation of the Sector.

Before the creation of JLOS the situation was bad. The necessary services and laws were lacking or were not properly implemented. Laws were scattered across the various documents and were being implemented by different institutions which were working separately from each other. They were inaccessible and many were outdated having been made during the colonial time and could no longer meet the national standards and aspirations. Many areas lacked laws to regulate them such as use of computer or information technology and protection of the rights and interests of a person who invents (copyright). Some laws were weak and could not be enforced or were lacking in many aspects while others were discriminatory against women and children especially in property ownership and sharing.

However, with the introduction of JLOS, the situation has been changing. New laws have been enacted such as the law on registration of a company-Companies Act- or business enterprise and on the use of computer and computer knowledge. Under the Companies Act, one person can form a company, which was not the case before. Many critical laws such as on marriage and divorce and inheritance of property by women are being reformed or updated. A number of outdated provisions of the law, which could not be implemented, have also been repealed-the adultery laws are a better example. JLOS has also developed laws which make torture, domestic violence and female circumcision criminal offences that can now be tried in courts of law.

A new anti-corruption law was passed. As a result, many corrupt people who stole or abused public funds have been convicted by courts and sentenced accordingly. The DPP has recovered more than Shs3 billion stolen from the Global Fund, NAADS and NUSAF. This has had a significant impact in sending out a signal that nobody will steal public funds without being punished or held accountable.

A total of 355 laws out of 364 passed by parliament were revised. These law reforms and changes have brought significant results. The long procedures of registering a company have been reduced from 30 days to just 48 hours. The percentage of offenders getting convicted in court is now higher than before and the rate of prosecution and disposal of cases in courts of law has increased. Courts are hearing and concluding cases more quickly than before. This has reduced the number of unheard cases lying in the court registry and pleased the people whose complaints have been handled within a short time. In percentage terms, 76.7% of priority laws have been passed and 90% enacted laws have been implemented; 98% of principal laws have been revised and 64% of suspects who were taken to the Anti-Corruption Court were convicted. Besides that, eight laws were re-tabled in Parliament for fresh debate including the laws on marriage and homosexuality.

 

Editor's Note: This article appeared in The Independent Magazine, Issue No. 253 of Feb. 22 - 28, 2013 (Pgs. 15 - 25).

 

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