English Language Slows Operation of Local Council Courts in Bukomansimbi

The leadership of Bukomansimbi district is struggling to fully operationalize lower Local Council courts due to the absence of translated laws that guide their adjudication.  

The community courts at lower local government administrative units are charged with adjudicating minor cases, making relevant orders for compensation, reconciliation, declarations, costs, apologies, sales, and attachments among other disputes that happen in their respective jurisdictions.

Members or judges of the Local Council Courts are residents of the area that the court has jurisdiction over. Although they may not have academic qualifications, it is essential that they are highly respected in the community, persons of integrity, with a high moral character, and speak the local language, rather than English, the working language of the formal court system.

However, the leadership in Bukomansimbi district is yet to constitute and effectively make use of the community court systems at village and parish levels due to the lack of translated handbooks that guide the adjudication of matters. 

Joseph Kamuli, the Chairperson of Kitanda sub-county says that out of the 46 villages in the area, the courts have been convened in only nine villages, despite the occurrence of disputes they have a mandate over to resolve. He adds that the majority of the village and parish council leaders are not even bothered about constituting the courts because they are not acquainted with the laws that govern them.  

“Many of the local councils are largely playing roles of witnessing sales and purchase agreements of properties in their area. As a result, all these minor disputes that could ideally be resolved at villages end up at police and courts,” he says. Kamuli asked the Ministry of Local government to translate the Local Councils Courts Act and other relevant laws such as the Succession Act and the Lands Act so that the leaders are empowered to fully exercise their mandates.  

According to the governing law, the local council court is composed of all nine executive committee members of the village or parish council. At the division or sub-county, the court consists of five members appointed by the town council or division on the recommendation of the executive committee.

But Deogratias Bwanika, the Chairperson for the Kibinge sub-county explains that the apparent knowledge gap among lower local council leaders has partly rendered them inactive and less relevant. He adds that many of the village and parish council leaders in Bukomansimbi cannot appropriately interpret the English language in which the laws were written, hence affecting their ability to administer justice as expected. 

As a result according to him, the lower local council leaders are now abdicating from this responsibility due to ignorance, hence contributing to unwanted case backlogs at both police and other high-level courts.

Christopher Ntambaazi, a member of the Kibinge sub-county community court, reveals that even the few villages and parishes that constitute their courts whenever the need arises, can hardly base their decisions on any legal principle, something that renders them controversial. He has also appealed to the government to consider induction sessions for leaders of the lower council administration units to enable them effectively fulfil their mandate.  

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