By Sakur AbdulSalam
Criminal cases have stalled as state prosecutors resume their strike over poor remuneration.
The countrywide paralysis started on Tuesday. Magistrates and judges were left stranded when state prosecutors who form the bulky of the criminal justice did not turn up in courtrooms.
All criminal matters are prosecuted by state lawyers from DPP’s office except a few cases which are privately prosecuted on the approval of the DPP.
The court users were also seen stranded and prisoners were returned to the prison facilities after their cases were adjourned by judicial officers.
On July 12, prosecutors invoked industrial action on account of poor remuneration and later called it off after government promised to solve their grievances within 90 days.
The indefinite sit-down strike was on Tuesday confirmed by David Baxter Bakibinga, the Uganda Association of Prosecutors (UAP) president, who said the industrial action was triggered by prosecutors after government failed to fulfill their promises.
He said the prosecutors will withhold their labour until government comes up with a concrete stand on their demands.
According to Bakibinga, the prosecutors' grievances range from low pay, facilitation, allowances, salaries being taxed and lack of promotions.
The prosecutors want the lowest paid attorney to get Shs.9m and the DPP Shs.40m per month given the number of cases they handle per year.
In July, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire told the prosecutors that the government was committed to increase their salaries to that of the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) who are the most paid public servants, pending the long term restructuring of their salaries.
This meant that the least paid prosecutor would get Shs.3.5m, while Shs.26.5m for DPP with an allowance of Shs.10.6m at the end of month.
Currently, the least paid state lawyer gets Shs.644, 963 while the DPP gets Shs.20m per month after tax.
Among the cases that were affected was that of 23 people, who are accused of killing former Police Spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
The suspects were slated to be committed to the High Court for trial but Nakawa Grade one Magistrate, Noah Ssajjabi adjourned the case until October 24 because the state prosecutor did not turn up in court.
On March 17, 2017, Kaweesi was murdered alongside his body guard Kenneth Erau and driver Godfrey Mambewo near his home in Kulambiro, a Kampala suburb.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Service Wilson Muruuli Mukasa has told public servants who are threatening to strike and others who are actually on strike to be patient and desist from his act because government is looking into their matter.
Medical doctors, judicial officers, teachers and local government officers have been on and off strike because of salary related issues.
“Whereas it is their right to go on strike, I would like to inform them that the process of rationalizing or looking into the question of salary, remuneration of pay is almost coming to an end. I request our good public servants to be patient and desist from taking such actions as we wait for the report before we take appropriate action,” he said.
“In any case salary reviews are normal and happen time to time and the president’s directive is itself a commitment. The good will is there and it’s just a question of time because it’s not just a matter of raising peoples’ salaries since the problem is more or less universal.”