President Museveni has dampened the Judiciary’s hopes of increasing the number of judges and magistrates as courts of law continue to grapple with the challenge of case backlog.
While opening the annual judges’ conference in Kampala on Monday, Mr Museveni said he was against the idea of increasing the number of personnel in the judiciary because government does not have enough resources to cater for them.
According to him, several other government agencies are grappling with understaffing challenges and therefore, the Judiciary should stop whining.
“You are not the only ones understaffed. Even the police are also grappling with manpower shortage.
If we had all the policemen we needed then we would have no money to work on roads or electricity. You cannot increase manpower because we may not have money to pay them.
You cannot convince me to stop working on the roads or electricity to pay salary for more judges. I cannot stop. That’s suicidal,” he said.
“If you want to manage scarcity, please invite me.
I’m an expert on how to manage scarce resources. I went to the bush with only 27 guns but managed to defeat an army of 60,000 soldiers,” he added.
However, the president proposed better remuneration and empowering judges as one of the ways to enhance their efficiency at work.
He said: “Other than increasing judicial officers’ numbers, I would rather we concentrate on the few we have and find ways of how to better remunerate them before we think about numbers.
Please don’t enter the trap of too many human beings before knowing how to manage them. I agree with empowering the few [judges] we have with equipment and remuneration as opposed to increasing their numbers,” he said.
The Judiciary has been struggling with case backlog, which has frustrated several people seeking justice, with courts attributing the problem to shortage of judges and magistrates to hear cases.
A 2016 report on the performance of the High Court divisions and circuits during the year indicates that 46,731 cases were brought forward from 2015 while 31,584 new cases were registered in 2016.
In May 2018, Parliament passed a resolution to increase the number of High Court judges from the current structure of 49 to 82 after it was found that the number was too small to to tackle the ever rising case backlog.
The resolution to increase the number of High Court judges was reached at by Parliament on March 28 this year.
According to the 2015 Judiciary file census, the case backlog was standing at 37,827, which was an alarming figure.
In an interview with Justice Benjamin Kabiito, the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission earlier last year, he explained that even if the optimum number of 82 judges was approved, still the judges will be fewer as compared to the citizen population.
“Although the Ugandan population has grown to about 41 million people, there is a severe staffing deficit of judicial officers, which deficit is impacting on the service delivery.
Because of the gaps, some magistrates cover more than one region,” Justice Kabiito said in an interview earlier this year.
By Daily Monitor