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Special Report: JLOS Leadership and Donors monitor projects in Western Uganda

 

WESTERN UGANDA -- Uganda’s Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) key mandate is delivering services closer to the people by improving physical infrastructure, reform of laws, reform of laws and simplification of procedures. The Sector which has been in operation for 13 years is focused on increasing public confidence and trust in the justice system as well as user satisfaction in the services. The goal is to enhance people’s access to JLOS services and drive the country towards deeper observance of human rights while promoting institutional and individual accountability.

The JLOS leadership on 4th - 6th of March, 2013, conducted a monitoring and evaluation exercise in western Uganda for its institutions to assess the conditions under which institutions operate and assess the success and challenges of building an effective justice system in Uganda. These are some of the highlights of that exercise.

 

DAY I

The JLOS team led by the Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki, began their monitoring and evaluation exercise in western Uganda in Mubende. The team that comprised members of the Leadership and steering Committee as well as development partners from the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland arrived at the Mubende Chief Magistrates Court on March 4, 2013. Also present were ministers from various JLOS institutions that included Hon. James Baba (Minister of State for Internal Affairs), Hon. Aston Kajara (Minister of State for Finance) and Hon. Felix Onzima (Minister of State for Local Government).

It was noted that this was the first time in the history of JLOS to make such a visit in Mubende. Upon arrival, the Chief Justice inspected a guard of honor and proceeded on a guided tour of the Chief Magistrates court. The chairperson of the Mubende Chain-linked Committee who is also the Chief Magistrate said as judicial officers, they had cleared the criminal backlog. She however, appealed to development partners to avail the prisons with a vehicle to transport prisoners to courts. The Mayor, Zziwa Kizito, in his remarks, commended the JLOS institutions for fostering a networking system that created a platform for public interaction. He also reiterated the need for a juvenile detention centre.

In her remarks, the resident judge, Justice Faith Mwondha, said there is need for at least three judges to rid the High Court of criminal case backlog. The chairman said that as development partners group, they are committed to championing the administration of justice for all. He added, “It is time to reach the rural people with physical structures, with priority on how they work.”

The JLOS team held an interactive session with the public, where members raised a number of issues including the need for speedy trials, putting logistics in place for visiting locus, shortage of staff, lack of accommodation and inadequate transport facilities for judicial officers.

In his speech, the Chief Justice commended the district leadership for planting trees to avert ecological disasters. He thanked the development partners for their continued support to the Sector and promised to send a resident judge. He noted that remand homes are a general problem that called for a policy on juvenile justice. He further noted that the judiciary would set up special courts to deal with land disputes, revealing that they were going to carry out research on all land cases that are more than two years old and are yet to be heard. He also appealed to court users to report to the judiciary in case a case has been delayed, so as to be helped.

 

Chief Justice Lays Foundation Stone for justice centre in Kyenjojo

 

The delegation headed to Kyenjojo district for the ground-breaking ceremony for the justice centre. Construction of the Centre that will house the Courts, Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and a police station is expected to commence later this year. The district has Grade 1 and Grade 2 Magistrate courts; which all operate from rented structures. According to James Byamukama, the LC5 Chairperson, there is only one state attorney and the area solicitor general’s office is in Mbarara, which makes it hard to give timely legal advice. He appealed to members of the bar to set up chambers in the district since there was only one practicing lawyer there. His Excellency Alphons Hennekens, in his remarks said that as development partners, they are interested in the investment of access to justice to enhance service delivery. Hon. Felix Onzima, Minister of State for Lands, appealed to stakeholders to continue supporting and monitoring courts. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Kahinda Otafiire commended the innovation of a one-stop legal service centre.

 

The Chief Justice in his remarks, commended the project of the planned Centre, describing it as being among the most innovative places of dispensing justice in Africa. He thanked the district for donating prime land for such a noble cause. He appealed to all stakeholders to ensure that the proposed centre is a hub for quality justice.

 

 

DAY II

 

Commissioning of the justice centre in Bundibugyo

 

It was a historical moment on Tuesday 5th March, 2013 when the Bundibugyo Justice Centre was commissioned by the Chief Justice. The event was witnessed by Ministers of the central government, members of the JLOS Leadership and Steering Committee, Development partners and the community of Bundibugyo. The Community justice centre will house the Uganda Police, Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and a Court house. This is part of the sector initiatives to enhance access to Justice for all – especially the poor and marginalized.

 

The district’s Grade I Magistrate, Alex Mushabe, said the court has been operating in rented premises while the prisons continue to operate in dilapidated colonial structures. In his remarks, the mayor, Robert Mpabaisi, thanked JLOS for the facility but appealed to stakeholders to look into setting up a juvenile remand home and women’s prison in the district, as well as availing a vehicle for transporting prisoners to court.

 

The Danish ambassador said the buildings are a first step but the litmus test is to see if the centre can avail timely dispensation of justice. Also present was James Baba, the minister of state for Internal Affairs who commended the Chief Justice for ensuring that there is justice right down to the lowest levels. He said, “The Centre is a symbol of delivery of justice to the people of Bundibugyo.” He urged residents to use it to ensure that there is less crime. Hon. Kahinda Otafiire, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said the centre showcases the vision of administering justice in the country as a whole.

 

The Chief Justice said that the Justice Centre was evidence that the Police, Judiciary and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions could co-depend and share resources. He thanked the development partners for supporting the sector. The Chief Justice said the district had been earmarked as one of those to get a Chief Magistrate. District leaders, the resident judge and other dignitaries commended development partners and the contractor, Zawadi Construction, for finishing the construction in record time.

 

 

Visiting the Fort Portal Children’s Remand home

 

The Monitoring and evaluation team on that very day visited the Fort Portal Children’s Remand home. The State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs, Hon. Ronald Kibuule, led the team on a guided tour around the facility. The Minister informed the team that there are three remand homes in the country and one reception centre, which are all under his docket. He appealed to the judiciary to regularize special sessions for children offenders.

 

The Fort Portal remand home is a regional juvenile detention centre for the entire Rwenzori region. The warden, Martha Kampire, thanked JLOS for donating to the home a van for transporting the children to court. She also thanked the Sector for donating beddings and beefing up their poultry farm. His Excellency Alphons Hennekens, the Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda, said children are important to JLOS. He said in line with the Sector’s theme for the year, ‘Access to Justice’, remand homes are the first entry point. He commended the judicial systems that are in place to ensure that children get justice.

 

In the evening, the resident judge, Justice Mike Chibita, hosted the delegation to a dinner at Mountains of the Moon Hotel.

 

 

DAY III

 

The Monitoring and evaluation team on this day visited the Fort Portal High Court, where they were led on a guided tour around the facility by the resident judge, Justice Mike Chibita. From the Court House, the team proceeded to Katojo Prisons. The Chief Justice inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Prison warders. The prisons that were built in 1957 to house 293 prisoners instead accommodates 889 prisoners. Built in the colonial times, the Prison is in dire need of renovation and expansion to ably contain the numbers. The OC Prisons, Julius Oryonje, appealed for speedy trials to help decongest prisons. The regional prisons commander, Allan Okello, said there is need for affirmative action when cause listing about prisoners with infants in prisons because this is an infringement on their rights.

 

The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, James Baba, promised to look into issues raised by the prisoners which included; more High Court sessions, speedy trials, way forward for inmates pending minster’s order and parole for deserving inmates. Baba also appealed to JLOS to increase funding to the Prisons department.

 

The Chief Justice in his remarks said it is not the desire of courts for inmates to overstay on remand but they are however constrained by personnel. He said JLOS is committed to improving conditions. The chairman Judicial Service Commission, James Munange Ogoola, said the commission is still awaiting the appointing authority to make a decision on people who have been interviewed to fill positions of judicial officers.

 

The team was thereafter taken for a sight seeing expedition in Fort Portal marking the end of the monitoring and evaluation exercise.

 

 

 

See also:

 

Monitoring and Evaluation Document Centre

 

 

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Reprinting or republication of this article on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to the JLOS Website, at the beginning or end of the report:

 

Special Report: JLOS Leadership and Donors Monitor Projects in Western Uganda is republished with permission of the Justice, Law and Order Sector."