The Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere once said: “Our judiciary at every level must be independent of the executive arm of the State. Real freedom requires that every citizen feels confident that his case will be impartially judged, even if it is a case against the Prime Minister himself.”
These were Mwalimu’s cherished dreams of a Tanzania which adhered to the principles of judicial independence and a country where its citizens, regardless of the social status, enjoyed total access to justice.
While it remains to be seen whether Mwalimu’s dreams have ever been fulfilled, facts on the ground show that as a nation, we are far off the mark to the extent that some analysts have asserted that in the Tanzanian courts of law there is law only but not justice.
What this means is that it is still not easy for an ordinary Tanzanian to get justice in the country’s judicial system because of, among other things, endemic corruption and outdated procedures that result into unnecessary delays in the disposal of cases.
That’s why we wish to echo President Jakaya Kikwete for his impassioned appeal to the East African legal fraternity to lead by example by putting in careful and judicial use the independence of the judiciary as it exists for the good of society.
The President who opening the eighth East African Magistrates and Judges Association (EAMJA) Conference and Annual general meeting in Arusha on Wednesday underlined four basic tenets that must be observed if society is to have access to justice. These are: Credibility of the courts, Judicial impartially and integrity, competence and fairness, judicial education and training.
People who are served by the courts are the one’s who will determine whether the courts are credible or not.
In extension therefore, people are bound to lose confidence with the courts of law if they are seen as an institution, serving the interest of the people with money and trampling on the poor majority.
We wish to call on the country’s judicial administrators to undertake soul-searching and determine where they have gone wrong, take remedial measures and win back the confidence of the people.
Courts are institutions where people are expected to run to in their pursuit for justice. If they lose confidence in the courts, the final resort is to take the law in their hands as we have witnessed in the several bizarre incidents of lynching taking place all over the country.
When justice is not seen to be done, what follows is total anarchy and social destruction.
All efforts must be made to ensure that Tanzania is not compromised into this tragic situation.
We wish to underline Kikwete’s call to the judicial system to work out ways of cutting down the high costs of litigation which have left the majority of the people in a situation where they cannot access justice.
As Kikwete said it is dangerous to make the majority poor remain mere onlookers of a judicial system which they see as a mystification and something difficult to trust. It’s time to act.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN 21st May 2010