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Judiciary needs the support of executive, parliament to function

For the last two weeks, judicial officers have been exercising their right to engage in industrial action to protest what they describe as poor pay.

The strike paralysed not just the ability of the courts to dispense justice, but also the law enforcement organs.

At some point, as this newspaper reported, the police was forced to release people with minor offences due to congestion. By the time an entire arm of government goes on strike, it means there is something fundamentally wrong.

It is a cry for help that deserves serious attention to avert a repeat of the same, or similar, action in future. Therefore, although the judicial officers have called off their strike at least until December 11, the government should not put its feet up, thinking it has addressed the problem.

The judicial officers called off their strike because the government promised them a few perks including double-cabin pickup trucks and security.

However, the government has not addressed the very issue that caused the strike in the first place: a salary increment.

As the Uganda Law Society (ULS) noted in its August 29, 2017 statement on this industrial action, this is not the first time that the government had neglected to address critical issues in the judiciary.

“It is also a fact that the government has never acted on the previous recommendations of the Judicial Service Commission on this important matter,” the ULS statement said in part.

Unlike the executive that has an all-powerful president at the top, and a parliament whose legislators are able to set their emoluments, the judiciary is hamstrung in its ability to get a decent share of the national budget to carry out its activities.

The judiciary, therefore, seems to depend on the goodwill of the other two arms even though it plays an equally important role in the functioning of the state.

We, therefore, call on the other two arms to support the judiciary to ensure that it plays its role efficiently, including offering decent salaries to judicial officers. The alternative could lead to a further breakdown in the performance of the judiciary, which will not be good news at all for our fledgling democracy.

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