Mohamed Chande Othman
“As we ask citizens to obey the law of their own accord, we also urge law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of all people at all times.”
‘Is he living in Tanzania’
Well said, Chief Justice, on nurturing rule of law
20th June 2011
Being so honest enough to oneself as to go public and cite deficiencies in one’s performance is no mean feat.
Yet this is precisely what Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman did at Friday’s inauguration in Dar es Salaam of a Police-initiated campaign whose thrust is on encouraging the citizenry’s voluntary observance of the law.
With the Judiciary yet to fully ‘destigmatise’ itself after the issuance of successive reports associating it with deep-rooted corruption, it could be easy to decide that the CJ’s remarks border on the bizarre.
CJ Othman used the occasion to underline the need for the country’s Judiciary and all law enforcement agencies to understand that only by exercising fairness and impartiality – and therefore steering clear of favouritism and oppression – can they win the public sympathy, confidence and cooperation and therefore operate efficiently enough.
In his words: “As we ask citizens to obey the law of their own accord, we also urge law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of all people at all times.”
History has not always been very kind to the men and women in uniform, judges, magistrates and the like. This is ironical, in the sense that it is these very people who are supposed to promote justice and law and order for the benefit of the public.
The CJ must have considered this as he discussed the importance of all custodians of the law, among them police and court officials, to refrain from prejudicial judgment.
But aware that it would make little sense merely ensuring that these toed the line but without also ensuring that they enjoyed the trust of the public, he made an impassioned appeal to every member of society to take pride in promoting peace and security and generally obeying the law and supporting the cause of justice.
The importance and relevance of this call should be considered in the light of the fact that it is part of human nature to crusade for one’s rights and privileges but without caring to lend as much weight to the need to fulfil one’s legal and other duties, responsibilities or obligations.
The focus of the just-launched campaign is on promoting universal voluntary observance of the law, meaning that the people in their millions will be sensitised on the importance of everyone really serving as a custodian of law and order.
One idea is to carry the community policing concept a little further forward by, say, ensuring that criminal suspects end up at police stations and are not subjected to the so-called mob justice, taking appropriate action at scenes of crime even if one is not a police officer, and giving people reason to believe that police officers are indeed law-enforcement agents and what we have are not merely courts of law but courts of justice.
This is a tall order for all of us because it is the very future of our country that is at stake. The CJ has demonstrated rare courage by publicly admitting that there is a log in his eye and being daring enough to take it out first before planning to dislodge splinters from other people’s eyes. One wonders how many such candid people our country has!