- In order to ensure judicial independence, we must advocate the passing of the Administration of the Justice Bill.
The Supreme Court ruling in Kenya, which nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory, provides key lessons on how an independent judicial system functions. Many political pundits across the globe have praised Kenya’s judicial system for exuding a high degree of independence in dispensing justice. They now see Kenya as one of the most democratic countries with an independent judicial system.
Several opposition politicians have argued that Uganda’s judicial system should have annulled the 2016 presidential election on ground that the incumbent seemed to have influenced the outcome. More importantly, before we compare Kenya to Uganda, we need to appreciate Kenya’s significant strides in promoting judicial independence, rule of law and democracy.
A strong and independent judicial system is the cornerstone of democracy and it must be religiously respected and upheld. A weak judicial system cannot promote democratic principles which include fairness and equality, transparency and accountability. Among the key expectations of the Citizens’ Manifesto 2016-2021, is defence and protection of the independence of institutions of State and citizenship as foundations of building a durable democracy. Despite the citizens’ aspiration of enhanced strong and independent institutions, the government has not expressed commitment or political will to pursue the doctrine of separation of powers, which would bolster independence of the Judiciary.
In Uganda, the judicial system is fused with the other arms of government such as the Executive which undermines its impartiality and independence. Suffice to note that Ugandans have little or no confidence in the judicial system. On the other hand, according to the 2015 survey by Freedom House, Kenyans see their Judiciary as the third most trusted institution - after media and civil society - that can defend their rights. Recently, judicial officers laid down their tools demanding salary increment. It is vital that government raises the salaries of judicial officers to administration of justice without fear or favour.
In order to ensure judicial independence, we must advocate the passing of the Administration of the Justice Bill. The Judiciary should be given financial autonomy just like the Executive and Parliament in order to foster judicial independence and efficiency. We should also make sense of the Transparency International 2017 survey findings which despite other perception reports, continued to indicate the Judiciary as one of the top most corrupt institutions besides police. Corruption weakens the judicial system hence leading to miscarriage of justice and in the long run a breakdown in the rule of law and democracy.