Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government has been asked to empower lower local council leaders with basic legal knowledge to enable them to undertake the responsibilities of local council courts.
The courts at lower local government administrative units are charged with adjudicating minor cases and making relevant orders for; compensation, reconciliation, declaration, costs, restitution, apology, attachment, and sales among others.
But Deogratias Bwanika, the chairperson of Kibinge sub-county in Bukomansimbi district is concerned that the courts are failing to settle the cases in their jurisdiction largely due to knowledge gaps. Bwanika says that the majority of the local council leaders are abdicating from this responsibility due to ignorance of the governing laws.
As a result, according to him, many minor offences and simple conflicts that can be resolved at villages, parishes, and sub-county community courts are being sent to police and magistrates courts, thereby contributing to unnecessary backlogs in the system.
He adds that the government needs to undertake deliberate efforts to sensitize the local leaders on the basic legal principles that can help them appropriately administer justice in their jurisdictions, other than being summoned as witnesses in courts of law.
Bwanika made the appeal during the inauguration of members of the Kibinge sub-county local council court, saying that besides breeding animosity, the communities are also suffering from high levels of lawlessness that can be averted by the local council courts by punishing the offenders from within their communities.
He also urges the government to identify and translate the most relevant laws required in the effective administration of the local council courts.
Besides the minor criminal cases of assault and petty thefts, Bwanika wants that the local council courts to be empowered to adjudicate matters of land ownership and administer properties of deceased persons which he says are the commonest disputes in the community.
Aisha Nattembo, the Butenda sub county Grade One Magistrate who inaugurated the local council court members also expressed concern about the unscrupulous people taking advantage of the semi-illiterate village council leaders to sanction irregular transactions and transfer of properties.
She has asked the lower local government to avoid witnessing any transaction agreements that are written secrecy, as one of the ways to avoid being manipulated by unscrupulous people.
Christopher Ntambaazi and Gertrude Nakaweesi, both members appointed to Kibinge sub-county local council court acknowledge the underlying knowledge gap that needs to be closed by training of the members.