New survey says Ugandans have ‘strong faith in objectivity of justice system’

JUSTICE | Majority of Ugandans have a strong faith in the justice system to handle cases objectively, with citizens especially noting that wealthy and powerful persons are as criminally liable as the common folks, a new survey says.

The survey findings, released last week by Twaweza, a local NGO, was published in a research brief
entitled: “The haves and the have-nots: Ugandan’s opinions on poverty, fairness, and inequality.”

Twaweza’s data, which was obtained from its programme christened ‘Sauti za Wananchi’ (Voices of Citizens), Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone based survey, indicates 85% of citizens agree that “when a person of wealth or authority commits a crime, he or she will be punished according to the law.”

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The findings, based on data collected from 1,925 respondents across Uganda carried out between May 4 and 12 of 2018, further shows that a large majority 86 percent agree that all citizens will be punished equally regardless of their wealth.

“Other points raised in the brief include good news for the justice system: citizens are confident that the police and courts treat the rich and powerful much the same as they treat ordinary citizens,” the
the survey report says.

Solomon Muyita, Judiciary’s senior communications officer, described the findings as “encouraging.”

“The judiciary though not party to the findings welcomes the report,” Muyita said, “but certainly we need to do more work to improve the delivery of justice.”

Reports from surveys by Twaweza are expected to shape public debate as well as guide policy-makers in their choices of how best to serve the citizenry.

The new finding is a drastic and remarkable change, because in 2017 while at the Wommonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association conference in Dar-es-sa-laam, Tanzania, Bart Katureebe, the chief justice, bemourned how the justice system remains elusive in Uganda, especially to the vulnerable and marginalised persons due to institutional and other challenges.

“The justice system has the highest levels of inequality with the rich using the fast track system as the poor ride on the slowest track littered with delays and corruption. It should not therefore surprise us that public confidence in most Judiciaries remains far below acceptable standards, “Justice Katureebe said.

However, Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde, a lawyer with Legal Brains Trust (LBT), raised doubts about the findings.

“I don’t know the methodology they used but I find those findings strange,” Ssemakadde said. “I will be looking out for the report to study it since I’m not so conversant with it.”

Other findings

In other findings, Twaweza said that majority of citizens see hard work as the route to wealth but are apparently they are divided on benefits and safety nets.

“Eight out of ten citizens (8o percent) agree that if people work hard, it is easy to gain wealth. Six out of ten (60%) so see the benefit of inequality, agreeing that inequality creates competition and encourages people to work hard,” the findings reveal.

The eight paged report also revealed that citizens are divided on whether men and boys should be given priority over women and girls when circumstances are tight

“One out of three citizens (32%) agrees with the idea that boys should be given priority over girls when it comes to access to schooling, fewer than the number who disagree (53%),” the report says, adding,

“For adults, the situation is reversed, with half (51%) agreeing with the idea that men should be given
priority over women when it comes to access to jobs, sources of income or resources like land, while a slightly smaller number (43%) disagree.”

Citizens are very evenly split, the report claims, on whether or not it is better for a family if a woman has the main responsibility for taking care of the home and children. While 43 percent disagree with this idea, 38% agree.

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