The Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) in Uganda’s capital Kampala was established in 2004, but has so far only provided training for judicial officers on a very limited scale. Moreover, the few existing courses are too short and theoretical in order to prepare judges, registrars and magistrates for their daily work . For example, the induction course for newly appointed judges and lower-ranked magistrates takes only two weeks and participants do not get any practical training in judicial and managerial skills such as the drafting of judgments, the hearing of witnesses, court management, computer skills, communications etc. Also an enhanced knowledge of some legal issues is required, for example cases dealing with land issues, which are not only common but also often complex in Uganda where the majority of the rural poor depend on land for making a livelihood and where national and customary laws often conflict. In addition, more attention for ethical issues is required. Many judicial (and non-judicial) officers in courts are susceptible to corruption due to their position and modest salaries. Corruption practices are widespread and diverse, for example ‘speeding up’ the handling of a case if a large sum of money is paid to the clerk, paying twice for bail, or paying the magistrate in order to win a case. The enormous case-load backlog is often mentioned as a prominent problem within the judiciary, but this is clearly not only a problem relating to the number of staff and efficient working practices. A change of attitude is needed; judicial officers must become aware of the wider consequences of their individual actions – which is a very challenging task for a training institute.
About 14 highly motivated freelance trainers at the JSI have now formed a task force in order to provide a boost to the development of new judicial courses focusing on practical and managerial skills, issues of ethics and integrity, and enhanced legal knowledge. Under the supervision of Prof. Ton Hol and Dr. Jet Tigchelaar from Utrecht University, this group met for the first time in June 2010 in Entebbe, a town that is beautifully located on the edge of Lake Victoria. A selection of the most urgently needed courses has been made and the first outlines for the courses have been developed. A Uganda consultant specializing in teaching, Dr. Proscovia Namubiru, has been attached to the team in order to improve didactics and assignments. So as to develop the courses, a tried and tested method from another CILC project on the Law Faculties in Rwanda will be used: under the supervision of experts the course developers will spend one month full time in the Netherlands or in Uganda to collect reading materials and to develop exercises and assignments. Through regular meetings and presentations in Uganda the group spirit will remain high. It is foreseen that the process of course development will continue until June 2011. In the second half of 2011, after intensive training for trainers in teaching skills, the new courses can be delivered for the first time to the judicial officers.
Karin Nijenhuis, 20-10-2010