Uganda’s Chief Justice Bart Muganda Katurebe has resurrected the call to re-instate Local councils through new elections when he said they are sorely missed when it comes to resolving minor disputes involving villagemates.
Justice Katurebe made the call while addressing the 20th Annual Judges Conference held this week at Speke Resort Munyonyo.
Justice Katurebe said: “Your Excellency, we need to bring back the Local Council Courts (LCC) or Village courts in our country because they were very useful at all levels. Criminality at the village is increasing because local councils lost powers since every case now is brought to courts of law leaving local council courts out.”
According to Katurebe, the inactivity of the LC system is responsible for up to 70 percent of the mounting backlog of cases in Uganda’s courts, which, he said, is making their work hard.
“We have a lot of backlogs where by the number of cases per judge is expected to hit more than 1,000 cases in the next year given that case filings are increasing at an annual rate of 10%. Your Excellency I beg that the government organizes elections for Local Council I and II, that were suspended late last year to help in the administration of justice since they are more accessible to most impoverished people.”
Katurebe also pleaded to Museveni to lift the ban on recruitment of more judges and other judicial officers noting that nearly 95% of the population lack access to judicial services.
Out of the 532 positions for Grade One Magistrates, only 192 are filled and out of the 100 Chief Magistrates needed, only 42 are employed. The situation is not any better in high courts as only about 58 positions are filled out of the required 82 judges.
President Museveni however told the Chief Justice to lower his expectations noting that government priority is currently meant to for development projects.
“I don’t believe in the philosophy of scattering resources that is why I have concentrated on electricity and roads so far,” said Museveni.
What are Local Council Courts?
According to Local Courts Act of 2006, Local council Courts are courts established at the village, perish, town divisions and sub county levels and are made up of executive members of the local councils headed by Local Council (LC I or village Chairman who resident of that particular area and must understand the local language.
The constitution of the Republic of Uganda provided for the creation of local council courts as part of the decentralization of power. The LCCs are the lowest unit authority that have administrative, legislative and judicial powers on behalf of the government.