By Mulengera Reporters
As new PS Judiciary, Pius Bigirimana has already determined priority interventions to be undertaken in order to cause change, enhance welfare of judicial officers and thereby become everybody’s darling. For years, something called Administration of the Judiciary Bill has been in the offing but two of his predecessors (Dorcas Okalany and Kagole Kivumbi) have left without seeing it come to fruition.
Among other things, the legislation seeks to harness the Judiciary independence by way of making it possible for courts to have financial autonomy like Parliament has. In its provisions, the 1995 Constitution provides for an institution called the Judiciary as one of the three arms of government but unlike in the case of Parliament, Uganda has never legislated a specific law operationalizing those provisions.
In the legislature’s case, we have the Administration of Parliament Act which inter-alia creates the Parliamentary Commission which has powers to make autonomous decisions (including those relating to staff recruitment and determining legislation) without having to depend on the rest of the government.
The framers of the Constitution envisaged that something similar would be appropriate for the Judiciary to fortify its independence and autonomy. “It will give meaning to Judiciary independence and make it less dependent on the executive. Just like Parliament, under that law Judges will have their salaries and other welfare-related measures enhanced without having to be at the mercy of the President,” said a source closely connected to the process.
So, on becoming PS, Bigirimana (who has been on orientation while meeting key actors seeking to deepen his understanding of the areas that require urgent intervention) has come to the realization that there is no way he can cause the reforms he would like to see without that law being in place.
He has since confided in some key actors that having it enacted is going to be his priority in the first year at the helm of the Judiciary. Bigirimana has already made contact with the legislature and officials at the Justice Ministry seeking to understand where and why the legislation stalled. He is understood to be determined to undertake the necessary mobilization to ensure the all-important bill is expeditiously processed into law and serious work begins.
He has vowed to change the Judiciary in ways that will cause posterity to remember him for 100 years to come. The entire Judiciary leadership is gratefully well mobilized but only lacked a CEO that can leverage on the President’s trust and get things done.
Sources say Bigirimana is confident that with Gen Kahinda Otafire on board, all he needs is to get smooth operators like Mwesigwa Rukutana on his side and the law will be in place in just months. Some think the best strategy he should push his thing without over consulting the President just in case it’s something the big man isn’t comfortable with.
It’s something that has unanimous backing of donors and strong lobby groups like Uganda Law Society and the academia where everyone says that enactment is long overdue. But the only thing Bigirimana will have to contend with relates to the widely held view that (being one used to controlling things and getting everyone kneeling before him), the President may not be very enthusiastic with the enactment of a legislation that would make judges less dependent on him to have many of their inexhaustible material needs met.
“He is already uncomfortable with the list of things Rebecca Kadaga can do as Speaker without reference to him to run that Parliament and just imagine all that headache once the Judiciary becomes equally autonomous. It diminishes his levers to exercise control and he naturally has fears which Bigirimana will have to convince him about before throwing his unreserved support behind the enactment,” says one of the knowledgeable sources we spoke to for this article. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).