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Over the last two days, a conference on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) organized by the Judiciary was hosted in Kampala. Leaders took turns criticizing the current legal system for its ineffectiveness in solving the Justice needs of the people.
From President Yoweri Museveni who was the Chief Guest at the conference to Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo and his Deputy Richard Buteera, a chorus was made out that ADR mechanisms such as arbitration, [Learn about Arbitration Here] mediation, and conciliation among others are the way to go if Uganda is to achieve a functional Justice system.
In his short speech delivered for him by the Vice President, President Yoweri Museveni told the conference attended by among others several Judges and legal professionals that the current legal system inherited from our colonizers – Britain facilitated impunity and is good at concealing the truth rather than facilitating its discovery contrary to the African concept of Jurisprudence.
“You cannot have the law suspended in space and not rooted in the society, from which it is coming. ” Museveni said.
“ The Africans had an elaborate way of handling disputes before colonial rule. One of the principles in the African jurisprudence was the preference for the truth. This is a departure from the current legal system, where a person hires a lawyer to cover his or her mistakes; to minimize the mistake and maximize innocence. There is no attempt to arrive at the truth. Africans viewed disputes as an opportunity for strengthening, instead of breaking societies and relationships. Therefore, the modern system of justice has many lessons to learn and replicate from the African concept of justice. These systems related to the people daily and appreciated their need for fairness. Traditional conflict resolution techniques such as mediation, adjudication, reconciliation, and negotiation, which Africans employed in the past, offered great prospects for peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationships in post-conflict periods.”The President said pledging support for ADR interventions being mulled by the Judiciary.
The exotic nature of the legal system in Uganda was further re-echoed by Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo who noted that this state of affairs has been going on for as long as 100 years and that it is what has resulted in the “malignant” case backlog in the country at the moment.
The legal system in Uganda is adversarial in nature meaning that warring parties in any dispute have to appear before a Judge, in a highly technical and procedure-intensive manner, for a resolution of their disagreement in the form of a Judgment often expressed in a “win-loss” format.
“The current system of Justice is not African; we have practiced it for the past 100 years; and one of its most notable characteristic is the undesirable case backlog situation which shows no sign of going away.
Africanisation of administration of justice, through ADR, provides a quick and timely resolution of disputes, eliminates the use of middlemen [such as Lawyers], and reduces transactional costs. Therefore, Courts must move from the mindset of guarding their jurisdiction jealously to opening it up to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The average caseload per judge of the High Court now is 945 cases which can be significantly reduced if ADR is employed intensively.”Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo said in his speech at the conference.
The irrelevance of the current legal system to most Ugandans became more apparent when the Chief Justice revealed a study conducted by HiiL that found out that most disputes in Uganda are settled out of the Courts (95%) and with no lawyer (s) involved (99%).
He also revealed that trillions of Uganda Shillings are locked up in the Commercial Division of the High Court alone pending dispute resolution in cases relating mainly to banking and finance.
“ There is simply no way that Uganda can be an investment destination when investments are either inordinately delayed or locked up altogether in unending disputes, and this speaks to the need for the government to play a center role in seeing to it that the ADR mechanism is well rooted in the country as part of our justice mechanism system.”Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo said.
“ To members of the Legal fraternity, I should point out that litigation has fundamentally metamorphosed in recent years. Parties desire to keep or restore their relationships after the resolution of each dispute. It is thus inescapably incumbent on lawyers and other justice actors to re-skill themselves, and seriously invest in ADR which is certainly an irreversible justice mechanism phenomenon.” He added.
Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.
Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.