The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Justice Jane Frances Abodo, raised concerns about a shortage of prosecutors in her office. She revealed that approximately 41 districts in Uganda are currently without prosecutors. Abodo noted that while the judiciary has been regularly hiring judicial officers, the recruitment of state attorneys has not kept pace.
According to Abodo, the ideal scenario would involve having more prosecutors than judicial officers. This would ensure there are sufficient personnel to manage tasks such as reviewing case files, providing legal advice, and representing the prosecution in court.
These concerns were expressed during the induction and swearing-in ceremony of 100 newly appointed state attorneys in Kampala. Abodo explained that even with the recent recruitments, there is still a significant need for prosecutors, with 101 courts currently lacking them. She acknowledged that observing the 48-hour rule for producing suspects in court is challenging under these circumstances, as suspects may exploit the situation.
Abodo pointed out that the last time the Office of the DPP hired prosecutors was in 2015, and it has been operating with a structure designed for 300 prosecutors, despite an approved structure calling for 800 prosecutors.
In her address to the new prosecutors, Abodo, with 24 years of experience as a prosecutor, emphasized the importance of professionalism, integrity, and hard work. She highlighted that prosecutors’ salaries are now tax-exempt, underscoring the need for maintaining high ethical standards.
Among the new prosecutors is former Rwampara Member of Parliament Vincent Mujuni, also known as Kyamadidi. David Wajambuka Giboyi, the Assistant Commissioner of Human Resource Management in the Office of the DPP, mentioned that the new prosecutors have a six-month probation period. After this period, they will submit reports for confirmation.
Wajambuka encouraged the new prosecutors to communicate with their superiors in case they are unable to work, especially due to illness or bereavement. He also urged them to prioritize their prosecution work over returning to their previous jobs.
During the ceremony, Deputy DPP John Baptist Asiimwe advised the new prosecutors to approach their work with dedication and passion. He emphasized the need for resilience and commitment in this challenging and sensitive field, outlining their responsibilities, which include sanctioning criminal charges against accused persons referred by the police to any court where they are deployed.
Asiimwe also emphasized that instituting charges in military courts is beyond their jurisdiction, and only the DPP has the constitutional mandate to withdraw or discontinue charges against accused persons.
Challenges faced by the DPP’s office include inadequate transportation, understaffing, stagnant work placements for over ten years without promotions, and insufficient remuneration.
However, there is positive news on the horizon, as President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recently announced a tax waiver on prosecutors’ salaries and a salary increment to improve their welfare. The Justice Ministry has also assured prosecutors of the government’s commitment to enhancing their well-being.