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Judges told to align with NRM manifesto

Justice James Ogoola during the meeting

New judiciary plan proposes post of assistant principal judge, acting judges

Judicial officials attending the review of the judiciary’s transformation plan have been told to align their plans with the ruling NRM manifesto for the next five years. Amid murmurs and heckling from her audience, Dorcus Okalany, the judiciary’s accounting officer, warned that if the judiciary is not agreeable to the proposal, they risk missing out on government financing.

The judiciary’s five-year transformation plan aims to stem structural inefficiencies.  

“In everything we discuss, we must ensure that the transformation plan is in line with the NRM manifesto,” Okalany said, drawing murmurs from the judicial officers.
“We might have voted differently but this is the government we have and must go according to its manifesto,” Okalany said during the consultative workshop for the review of the Judiciary’s Transformation Plan (JTP) at Kabira country club on Tuesday.

Okalany explained that this presidential term has been christened “Kisanja hakuna mchezo,” translated loosely as a term of no games.

Her pronouncements drew more booing but Okalany was unfazed.

“This is the government in power,” she said, adding, “we must live in reality and do what it wants.”

Okalany said the transformation plan should be aligned to the second National Development Plan (NDP) and Uganda Vision 2040, which aim at “a transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years.”

“Since this is Kisanja hakuna mchezo, we have been told if we don’t do things in line with the manifesto, there will be no money,” Okalany said. 

Okalany’s suggestion was supported by Paul Gadenya, the chief registrar.

“This is the judiciary but we must take this Kisanja hakuna mchezo seriously, we must support that agenda,” Gadenya explained.

The 2016 NRM manifesto touts enhanced security and prosperity, patriotism and access to markets, enhancing jobs and wealth creation and service delivery. Commenting on the issue, former principaljudge James Ogoola, who chaired the committee that came up with the draft transformation plan, was rather cautious.

“It’s fine doing things in line with the [NRM] manifesto,” Ogoola said, but added “…you don’t put on yellow [NRM colours], you should leave that for those guys and ensure that you’re not partisan.”

Indeed, among the key issues in the transformation plan is strengthening the line of communication with the central government without “compromising independence.”

“Continuous dialogue to raise not only the priorities and needs of the judiciary but also promote a better understanding of the role and achievements of the judiciary in providing access to justice for all and its contribution to national development,” the document says. 


In transforming itself, the judiciary wants to see that perceived and real corruption is eliminated.

“Notwithstanding the achievements of the judiciary to date, it remains amongst the most corrupt public institutions in the country, as perceived by the public,” Ogoola said.

Ogoola added that one way to fight corruption is by remunerating judicial officers well such that “temptation is eliminated.” 

In the proposed 19-page transformation plan, the judiciary wants to change the judicial leadership structure through introducing the position of an assistant principal judge. Currently, the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has a deputy in Justice Steven Kavuma but the principal judge Yorokamu Bamwine has none. According to the plan, such a change will lead to effective institutional change and transformation of the judiciary.

Among the new initiatives, the judiciary wants to draft a case backlog reduction strategy, which will include mechanisms such as creation of an ageing list of cases, the hiring of acting judges, provision of adequate resources and drafting of rules for expeditious hearing of these cases. Justice Ogoola, in particular, emphasized the need to make justice accessible to the public.

“Provide improved interpretation and translation services throughout the courts, including the use of sign language and the availability of the judgments in braille,” the plan reads in part.

“Prepare practical user-friendly illustrated guides on goings-on [in] court, translated into local languages, familiarising the public with the persons and processes they can expect to observe in court.”


The document has a raft of proposals, which are aimed at ensuring that the work rate of judicial officers in disposing of cases is increased. The industriousness of judicial officers will be improved through developing and operationalizing the performance-enhancement system.

“Enhance performance-based management of judicial officers, not only based on case disposal rates, but also on the quality of work product, for example, good judgements,” the plan says.

Interviewed on Tuesday about the request for the judiciary to align itself with the NRM manifesto, Solomon Muyita, the judiciary’s senior communications officer, distanced judicial officers from Okalany’s stance.

“She is a civil servant who is supposed to implement government policies,” Muyita said.
“But that isn’t necessarily the judiciary’s position because we take our independence seriously.”  

On September 22, all judges will have an opportunity to discuss the plan. 

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