Uganda’s Religious Leaders Raise Concerns over Corruption in Judiciary, Call for Reforms

Representatives of IRCU with the Chief Justice, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo (centre) during the Monday, November 9 meeting.

Religious leaders in the East African nation of Uganda have raised concerns over corruption bedeviling the country’s courts and called on the relevant administrative stakeholders to root out the vice.

The religious leaders who constitute the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) raised the concerns during their Monday, November 9 meeting with the country’s Chief Justice, Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo alongside other senior judiciary staff.

“Some of the Judicial Officers are not ashamed of asking for bribes,” the chairperson of IRCU’s Council of Presidents, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje has been quoted as saying during the November 9 meeting.

Noting that judicial officers use the court clerks to ask for bribes, the leader of the umbrella body that brings together religious leaders including Catholic Bishops added, “Many litigants are unable to get bail refunds because the money is taken from them in cash by the judicial officers.”

Besides corruption, the representatives of the 19-year-old interreligious entity also expressed concerns about a host of other issues including reported abuse of judicial authority and lack of integrity, trying cases outside court jurisdiction, case backlogs, as well as mediation without integrity.

“We see a lot of conspiracy and connivance, especially when the courts handle cases related to land belonging to religious institutions,” the Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga said and added, “We have lost the majority of these cases because of this connivance.”

Responding to the concerns, which IRCU representatives raised, Uganda’s Chief Justice urged the faith leaders not to hesitate reporting incidences of corruption for action, noting that most of the allegations are usually not supported by evidence, making it hard for any prosecution.

“We really urge you men of God to be our eyes and ears out there. We’ll achieve a lot if well-meaning members of the public give us credible information about incidents of corruption,” Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo said.

The Chief Justice’s sentiments were echoed by Principal Judge, Flavian Zeija who told the religious leaders, “You should be our eyes. Record some of these elements and give us the evidence. We shall not hesitate to act.”

On corruption relating to bail applications, Judge Zeija informed the representatives of the seven-member forum for religious leaders in Uganda that the Judiciary’s Legal Reform Committee is working on developing guidelines to aid the bail application process.

“For a long time, discretion has been sitting with the individual judicial officers, but we’ll soon have this process guided,” he noted referencing the bail application process.

To aid in the reduction of the backlog of court cases, the religious leaders pledged to work hand-in-hand with the Judiciary in the area of mediation, a move welcomed by the Chief Justice who said that the judiciary would be happy to facilitate training members of the Clergy in that area.

“You could really assist us in some of these matters, say family matters, divorce, land disputes and others,” he said referencing the IRCU representatives' offer to assist in mediation.

During the November 9 meeting, the religious leaders among them representatives of Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) hailed the judiciary leadership for adopting the use of digital information technology, which they noted has aided the delivery of justice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The religious leaders and the judiciary officials agreed to hold similar meetings on a regular basis.

Established in 2001, the mission of IRCU is to promote peace, reconciliation, good governance, and holistic human development through interfaith action and collaboration, advocating for the empowerment of member bodies for the common good.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

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