In Summary
  • The Rwanda Gacaca courts established in 2001 to deal with genocide crimes have received international acclamation amid sharp criticisms. It is high time Ugandans adopted alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

Recently, the Foundation For Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) released a report showing that a staggering Shs35 billion a year is spent on feeding the current about 26,000 inmates in Ugandan prisons. I was taken aback! This translates to Shs3,750 per day, Shs112,500 a month and Shs1.35 million a year - spent on feeding each inmate. This is a heavy burden to taxpayers.

This is above the poverty line of many households in Uganda. With many Ugandans living on less than a dollar a day, maintaining such a big number of inmates is illogical. It is important to note that administrative and other costs have not been considered. In my opinion, it is thus more economical to adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms for national good.

The FHRI report blamed the big number of inmates on the huge backlog of cases and inadequate funding of the Judiciary. The number of judges is considerably smaller than the demand. The report further pinned police officers for lack of investigative skills and turning a blind eye on constitutional obligations while affecting arrests!

ADR, also called Popular Justice, refers to the means and methods of handling disputes within communities by members of the communities themselves. Community-based institutions are better placed to provide inexpensive, expedient, readily accessible and culturally appropriate forms of justice. This is especially true in the current situation in the country where there are many land-related disputes.

Some countries have used ADR with considerable success. In Britain, Popular Justice has been a tool to help the government implement the agenda to tackle anti-social behaviour and the crime associated with it.
The Rwanda Gacaca courts established in 2001 to deal with genocide crimes have received international acclamation amid sharp criticisms. It is high time Ugandans adopted alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Ivan Twinoweitu, Gayaza High School

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