By our reporter.
On the last day of his tour of the Masindi High Court Circuit on Wednesday 2nd December 2020, Uganda’s Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija visited the Magistrates Courts at Bulisa, Masindi, Kiryandongo and Kigumba.
He inspired patience and hope of better conditions of service among the judicial officers. “For many of the challenges like the one of staffing and transportation, we’re hoping that with this new Act, in the next three years such issues will be dealt with,” he said.
He added that Judiciary is now a self-accounting entity with empowerment to draw its own budget and as such can prioritise the key issues affecting the delivery of justice in the nation.
During the inspection of the site, PJ expressed disappointment of the absence of accommodation facilities for a magistrate yet judicial officers face a challenge of securing accommodation when posted to the district.
Despite the place being a hard-to-reach area, the Court does not have a station vehicle, this in addition to challenges such as the court not having a functioning computer, electricity connection. The frustration is compounded with the fact that the generator is hardly fueled which cripples the dispensation of justice.
HW Semondo described the PJ’s visit as an act of care. “When posted in such places we lack motivation but I’m so happy my Lord to receive you here. In my 30 years of service, you’re the first PJ I’m receiving at a station,” he said.
He also reported that the recent decrease in case registration was due to a number of epidemics that have struck the district coupled with floods that have displaced people. He added that case disposal had equally been affected by Prisons’ decision to stop receiving remandees.
Masindi High Court
At Masindi High Court, the PJ was received by Judicial Officers led by the Court’s Assistant Registrar, Simon Kintu Zirintuusa, who reported that the Court had disposed of 978 cases since the year began. This he said was in spite of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that the Court had projected to clear a significant number of cases but these have since been affected by the absence of the Resident Judge, Justice Gadenya Paul Wolimbwa, who is on sick leave.
The PJ promised that the station will soon get a visiting Judge adding that the other challenges would be addressed in a phased manner when the implementation of the Judiciary Act kicks off.
HW Zirintuusa informed the PJ that the Court was affected by issues such as understaffing, unstable power supply, malfunctioning ICT equipment, lack of accredited mediators, and the impassable muddy path that connects to the court and the Persons-with-Disabilities walkway.
Masindi CM Court
The Court is headed by the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Ssejemba Deogratius who also care takes Bulisa and Kiryandogo Courts. He is assisted by two Magistrate Grade One magistrates; Biwaga Selsa, Aber Irene and 10 administrative staff.
There are 477 cases pending before the CM, 240 of which are backlog and 686 cases before the magistrates, 190 of which are backlogged cases. The court posted 133 completed cases the month of November.
The PJ inspected the dilapidated court building which has a sinking ceiling and leaking roof. Among other challenges reported was lack of a station vehicle for locus visits.
Kiryandogo and Kigumba Court
From Masindi, the PJ went on to inspect the courts at Kiryandongo and Kigumba which are managed by Magistrate Grade One, Alule Augustine Koma and assisted by three support staff.
Kiryandongo has completed 532 cases this year alone, It has 499 pending cases of which 126 are backlog while Kigumba has so far completed 72, with 115 pending. Of these, only 10 are classified as backlog.
HW Alule pointed out that Kiryadongo Court has a low completion rate for civil matters due to the absence of lawyers in the district. Kigumba court on the other hand only handles civil matters due to the absence of a state Attorney.
Kigumba court is housed by the sub county, however it has no power.
At all stations visited, the PJ called upon staff to put to use the good practices in managing archives, exhibit stores, case registers, staff attendance registers and general maintenance of court premises.