Gen. Museveni Roots For Traditional Justice System

VP Alupo in a group photo with dignitaries


President Yoweri Museveni has pledged government’s total support for the Judiciary to expand the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution [ADR]. He says this will help to rejuvenate the traditional systems of dispute resolution which he says were more effective. 

“Africans had an elaborate way of handling disputes before colonial rule” he noted, adding that one of the principles in the African jurisprudence, was the preference for the truth.

The president made the remarks through the Vice President Maj. Jessica Alupo who represented him at the opening of the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Conference at Serena hotel.

Museveni said the African justice system was fair and always sought for the truth as opposed to the modern legal system where one hires lawyers to cover up his or her mistakes.

“This is a departure from the current legal system, where a person hires a lawyer to cover his or her mistakes; to minimize the mistake and 

maximize innocence” the General from Rwakitura said adding that ‘There is no attempt to arrive at the truth’

The president to prove his point referred to his tribe’s [Banyankore] method of handling matrimonial issues where in case a wife developed a conflict with her hubby, she would go back to her parents or brothers [Okwangana].

It is here that her relatives would inquire from her why she had left her husband’s home! 

“After a few days, the husband would come to okugarura [to bring her back]. His wife’s family would tell the man to return with four or five people, from his family. The two sides, the one of the man and the one of the woman, would then sit down and listen to both sides. The goal of the two sides was to find the truth” he explained.

The president explained that among the Banyankore system, even your own side would turn against you, upon discovering that you are a wrong doer. 

“For instance, if the woman was in wrong, her own family would turn against her and order her to apologize to her husband. That was one of our principles. It was based on truth, rather than just legal battles” Museveni said.

Museveni also reasoned that the African System did not tolerate impunity. He said the guilty party was tasked to okuhoonga [compensate for his or mistake].

“For instance, you would be asked to bring a cow or a goat, if the mistake does not include the shedding of blood. If it is murder, it would be okukaraba [blood settlement]. This helped to eliminate impunity because the price for misbehavior was high” he said.

Museveni added that the traditional justice system promoted harmony among people since it left hitherto fighting parties separated fairly and both satisfied.

“This restoration of peace and harmony were cherished in the African system. Africans viewed disputes as an opportunity for strengthening, instead of breaking societies and relationships. Therefore, the modern system of justice has many lessons to learn and replicate from the African concept of justice” he noted.

He said the African judicial systems related to the people daily and appreciated their need for fairness.

The president said that traditional conflict resolution techniques such as mediation, adjudication, reconciliation, and negotiation, which Africans employed in the past, were effective and offered great prospects for peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationships in post-conflict periods.

VP Alupo being welcomed by Justice minister Norbert Mao at Serena

“I wish to emphasize that the legal system must be part and parcel of the organic body of the society. You cannot have the law suspended in space and not rooted in the society, from which it is coming. I, therefore, welcome the efforts of the Judiciary to re-orient its philosophy from the colonial disposition of justice to a more Africanized institution, that reflects the interests and values of our people” he said.

He commended the Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the University of Pepperdine, the Uganda Bankers Association and the other partners, for organizing this high-level event, which he said underscores the need to adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution [ADR] in Uganda’s Justice System.

He said in the past, his government had not paid much attention to the fundamental questions regarding the law as it was busy fixing the infrastructure and other pressing issues to fix the economy.

“I am happy to note that the Judiciary is beginning to explore alternative mechanisms of settling disputes. In the past, I have urged the Judiciary to examine the principles of the African Jurisprudence. What was the philosophy of law among the Africans, before the British introduced the current legal system?” he asked in his speech ably delivered by his trusted Vice President Alupo.



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