President Yoweri Museveni has told the Judiciary to stop delaying huge projects that have financial implications because it denies the country’s economic growth and employment that is part of the historical mandate of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government.
The President was on January 28 officially opening the 22nd Annual Judges’ Conference at the Nsambya-based Mestil Hotel in Kampala.
The President was referring to a case in which the investor in the Osukuru fertilizer factory in Tororo District Eastern Uganda was stopped by the Court from operating due to some misunderstanding with his partners.
“This huge project has got financial implications. The money is from the bank and any delay means interest is accumulating. The total investment is US$630 million. You cannot be serious. What are you looking for? This is not an institutional mandate but a historical one,” the President said.
The 4-day meeting that is running under the theme “Discharging the Mandate of the Judiciary: Towards A modern, Professional and Effective Judiciary”, is attended by Justices, Judges, Registrars and a section of members of the Bar and stakeholders within the Justice Law and Order Sector.
The conference has been tailored to discuss the performance of the Judiciary in the previous year, identify gaps hindering performance and make proposals to modernize and improve efficiency and effectiveness of the Courts of Law in the Administration of Justice in Uganda.
Keynote speakers included Justice Frank La Buda from New York in the USA.
President Museveni, who exhaustively told participants the difference between a country, a nation, and a state, said the historical mandate of today’s state is to build a free Uganda whose people are engaged in agricultural and industrial production for financial and food security.
He noted that there is some degree of waking up today in the country as manifested by the glut of various products such as milk, sugar, maize, bananas and even construction materials. He, however, added that the only challenge is the market that the government is working hard to resolve through integration.
On the issue of remuneration, President Museveni assured participants that their salary enhancement will continue until the comparable international standard is reached, adding that the institution of the judiciary has a unique role of peacemaking in society.
“A fair judiciary will definitely help us jump on the bus of modernization,” he asserted.
He further assured them that even at the time of retirement, Judges should receive their pension equivalent to either their salary or some little percentage below their salaries.
“We don’t want a former Judge to hang around with lawyers trying to look for a part-time job. You should retire with your dignity – car escorts. This is to get our people out of temptation,” he noted.
Regarding the issue of backlog of court cases, the President asked the judiciary to prioritize cases; handling first the serious ones like murder, commercial and some land cases adding that others, like divorce, could be heard later.
The President noted that as the government continues to open up factories, some of the bottlenecks like some of the court cases contribute to the hindrance of economic growth.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, noted that a strong judiciary is very key for sustainable growth. He pointed out that the theme of the conference is in line with one of the principal pillars of the government in service delivery to the nation.
The Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, thanked President Museveni for supporting the Judiciary and for the numerous new appointments in the judiciary. He used the occasion to urge Judicial Officers to exercise maximum integrity when handling land cases.
Deputy Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Ethics and Integrity State Minister, Simon Lokodo and Public Service Head, John Mitala, among others, are attending the conference.