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Thursday, July 13, 2017

#Uganda prosecutors finally lay down their tools over low pay - #Justice


Scores of complainants and suspects were stranded in courts across the country as state prosecutors laid down their tools in protest over low pay and poor working conditions.

Currently the lowest ranking state prosecutor earns a gross salary of Shs 645,000 while those at the rank of senior principal state attorney earn Shs 2.1 million a month. The deputy director of public prosecutions is paid Shs 2.9 million; the assistant DPP earns Shs 2.4 million while the DPP earns Shs 11 million.

But the prosecutors, under the umbrella Uganda Association of Prosecutors (UAP), are demanding that the minimum salary of the lower ranking officials be raised to at least Shs 9 million and Shs 40 million for the DPP.

The prosecutors had given the state a period of 14 days from June 23, within which to announce changes in their remuneration. The days elapsed on Tuesday without any changes, leading to a strike that has paralyzed business in courts across the country.

Prisons bus at the High court in Kampala

In Luweero, plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses turned up at Luweero magistrate court for hearing of their cases but were told that court couldn't proceed in the absence of prosecutors.

There are three state prosecutors handling cases at the Magistrates and High court in Luweero. However, only one reported to the office.

Luweero resident state attorney Beatrice Alok told URN that she had turned up out of courtesy because there was a special High court session presided over by Justice Elizabeth Kabanda whom she had not earlier on informed about her absence over strike.

Alok later met Justice Kabanda and informed her about the ongoing strike at court but they agreed to work as they monitor the situation before 4pm to determine whether to adjourn until the strike is called off or not.

All cases in Luweero Grade II and Chief Magistrate's courts were adjourned.

Charles Sserubuuga, the Luweero chief magistrate had eight cases to handle today. He told URN he has decided to adjourn all cases brought to him and stayed in office for administrative work because of the strike.  He adds that their grievances are genuine and equally disappointed over salary disparities in government positions.

Some suspects' bails were extended and other remanded further. Police, suspects, complainants and witness have asked the prosecutors to call off the strike and use dialogue to address their grievances

Savannah regional police spokesperson Paul Kangavve says that the strike may also paralyze police investigations since this is always done with guidance of state prosecutors. He adds that to avoid crowding of police cells over unsanctioned files by the state, they are considering giving police bond to suspects on minor cases.

“As police we don’t work in isolation when investigating cases. Sometimes we don’t even wait for the RSAs (resident state attorneys) to take to them files when they are complete. Sometime, we even work closely in partnership with them when investigating cases. So, in any case when they lay down the tools, it is going to affect us as police because we shall have a backlog of files, of cases that they have not sanctioned, that they have no advised us upon", Kangavve said.

Emmanuel Busulwa, a resident of Janda village in Zirobwe sub-county is among complainants who were found stuck at court after finding the state attorney on strike. Busulwa expressed dismay at the strike saying its meaningless to table demands after the budgeting process.

Senior communications officer for the Judiciary, Solomon Muyita confirms the paralysis across the country adding that it's likely to increase the backlog in courts of law. 
"Many of the courts got a bit affected. So many prisoners were produced, people who had turned up for their cases of criminal nature and the cases could not proceed. So what we have done, is, to get all these matters adjourned to the next convenient time when we expect state attorneys to get back to work.
We hope their industrial action will end in not so many days because there is quite a number of suspects coming to court for justice hearing, some people applying for bail. Some people were coming for judgments, rulings. They are all affected but the courts are open. The judicial officers are ready, we’re hoping that the strike doesn’t take a very long time so that people can get justice because that is what brings them to court", he said. 
THE OBSERVER

Court paralysis as prosecutors strike over low pay

Scores of complainants and suspects were stranded in courts across the country as state prosecutors laid down their tools in protest over low pay and poor working conditions. Currently the lowest ranking state prosecutor earns a gross salary of Shs 645,000 while those at the rank of senior principal state attorney earn Shs 2.1 million a month.

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