Uganda’s Judiciary Should be Freed

Published on 17th April 2007

Recently, members of the judiciary laid down their tools due to the state’s repeated infringement on its independence. They took to this decision following government raid at the Kampala High Court to re-arrest six PRA suspects, who had been bailed on charges of treason. The scuffle that took place in the chambers of the high court is an embarrassing and despicable acts of disrespect towards the judiciary.

This is not the first time such unfortunate fracas is taking place at the much respected court. It has become routine for the executive to pull stunts at the high court whenever judgment is not passed to its satisfaction. First, there was the infamous black mamba military, who surrounded the high court in 2005 during opposition Leader Kizza Byesigye’s trial, leaving citizens fear gripped.

Judicial power is derived from the people and is exercised by the courts on behalf of the people in conformity with the law, values and norms of the people. How then does the state expect its citizens to respect the judiciary and rule of law when it has turned the institution into a “doormat”? Forcing the judiciary to backtrack judgment is showing the nation that the state does not trust the judicial system. This is setting a terrible precedence for the future of Uganda! 

There have been countless cases of people being detained for long in prisons, “pronounced guilty” and subjected to maiming torture or death without trial. The human rights watch names the police as the worst culprits.    

Due to such unfortunate events, demonstrations, strikes and parliamentary boycotts have become common. The police respond by unleashing tear gas to disperse any form of gathering; peaceful or not. The end results are injury, business disruption, and loss of property.

What does the government expect the population to do when they are obviously overwhelmed by gross violation of citizen’s rights? Relax and watch the rule of law being broken? Is our beloved country any where near the path to democracy?  How then should the population hold the government accountable for such acts? Uganda is hosting the commonwealth meeting this year. How will we present this country before the international community?

Frederic Bastiat in “The Law” contends that the law is collective organization of the individual right to lawful defence.Each of us has the God given right to defend our person, liberty and property. Preserving any of these basics of life depends on all the others. Groups of people also have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. It’s therefore not wrong to say that “the police powers of the state is perverted” in this country.

Uganda’s judiciary should be allowed to operate privately with limited or no interference from the executive or legislature. It should be able to run politically, administratively and financially free. Besides, political appointments breed a lot of “dead wood” on legal matters. They should be avoided. The judiciary should be entrusted to individuals with high personal ethics and integrity. Only then will Uganda uphold the rule of law.

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