President Yoweri Museveni has objected to the proposal by Uganda’s Chief Justice Bart Katureebe that there is a need to hire more judges, saying the existing judges are overworked hence the increase in case backlog.
While officiating at the 21st Annual Judges Conference that was held at the Serena Conference Centre in Kampala the President said it is better to have fewer and well-facilitated staff than having numbers minus quality.
“I agree with the concept of electronically equipping the magistrates, salary enhancement, filing court fines through bank accounts rather than paying directly at courts. But the issue of hiring more judges, understaffing, every sector is understaffed.
“With limited resources, we cannot have all the staff we need. If for example, we followed the UN recommendations for our police, we would need 80,000 police personnel but we have 43,000. My view is that we have fewer but better-facilitated workers, instead of just talking numbers minus quality,” said President Museveni.
The conference was held under the theme, “Judicial Ethics, Integrity and Accountability: A precondition for Improved Access to Justice and Sustainable Development”.
President Museveni explained to the judges that it is important for them to understand the historical mission of the state and work towards supporting it.
He said the state unlike the country or nation, refers to organized authority over a country and, you can, therefore, have a country (geographical space) minus a state.
“We have since built a professional army, and got Uganda back on the path of progress. With an annual budget of $439m, our army has not only secured Uganda but we now support some peace efforts in the region. Our ideology and historical mission lies on two things; Patriotism and Pan-Africanism.
“It is important therefore for the institution to understand this historical mission. A few times we have had skirmishes with the Judiciary, for example on the question of bail for capital offenders. Must it be compulsory? Why don’t you have the same anger for these criminals like I do? Wondered President Museveni.
On the question of remuneration, President Museveni reminded the judges that the country shall share what is available but a bigger fraction goes to those who need it most.
“It was a philosophy we built in the Bush. Our little food would go to those on duty, not the senior-most officer. I would lie hungry in my tent but while the soldier on duty had what to eat.
“Why, for example, should an undersecretary in a ministry, whom we can replace in a day, earn more than a pilot or doctor who we spend years training? Pilots elsewhere earn a lot of money yet we were underpaying our instructors at Soroti Flying School, placing it at risk of closure.
“Gradually, as our revenue increases, so shall the remuneration of government workers. It will be scientists first, then we create a matrix for other professions. For example, I understand the judicial officers cannot do any other work, this makes them a critical group,” stressed President Museveni.