Africa

Africa: ‘Judicial Institutions Are Susceptible to Corruption’


While corruption has direct damaging consequences in general on the functioning of state institutions, and in particular on the administration of justice, it decreases public trust in justice and weakens the capacity of judicial systems to guarantee the protection of human rights, and it affects the tasks and duties of the judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other legal professionals.

Therefore, renowned Kenyan lawyer and Pan-Africanism activist, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno (PLO) Lumumba, in a presentation made on Wednesday, May 8,, at the ongoing conference of the African Regional Group of the International Association of Judges cautioned judges to see themselves as being susceptible to corruption

Lumumba, a venerated African expert orator on African liberation and legal luminary, suggested that the way forward is to have an effective justice system that is vital for countering corruption–which – in turn – is essential for fostering development.

Prof. Lumumba likewise warned judges about the danger of corruption in the Judiciary.

“Corruption and its perceptions diminish trust in the judiciary and undermine key judicial functions such as dispute resolution and protection of property rights,” the Professor emphasized.

Making his presentation on the topic “Building Integrity through Positive Actions: A Mean For Ensuring an independent judiciary”, Lumumba observed that corruption also compromises the judiciary’s broader mandate in upholding citizens’ rights, maintaining the integrity of political processes, and holding representatives of other branches of government accountable for unlawful actions.

Commenting further on corruption and its aftermath in the Judiciary, Lumumba noted that although there is widespread agreement on the detrimental impact of corruption within the judicial system, it is important to recognize that there are unique obstacles associated with addressing judicial corruption.

“Anti-corruption initiatives may inadvertently compromise the independence of the judiciary, thereby impeding judges’ capacity to fulfill their accountability duties. Indeed, the underlying motive behind such measures may be to restrict judicial independence, the motivational speaker noted.

Lumumba himself a lawyer disclosed that when discussing judicial corruption, the typical perception involves judges accepting bribes.

However, he noted that judicial corruption encompasses a broader spectrum; any form of undue influence that could compromise the impartiality of justice and may involve various actors within the justice system, including lawyers and administrative staff.

“Corruption is not about interactions between judicial personnel and court users but also extends to internal dynamics within the judiciary itself,” Lumumba reminded his audience.

According to him, the ‘gain’ from corruption is not limited to financial benefits; it includes advancing professional aspirations or avoiding undesirable consequences.

Dwelling on biased decision-making and judges’ integrity, Lumumba observed that biased decision-making is not just a question of individual integrity but also pertains to the structural safeguarding of judicial independence and shielding judicial decision-makers from improper political or hierarchical pressures.

Giving a recommendation on how to reduce the risks of individual and systemic corruption within judicial systems, without compromising judicial independence, Lumumba noted that it requires a multifaceted approach tailored to the specific challenges of each society.

Addressing individual instances of bribery or petty corruption necessitates systemic reforms aimed at enhancing judicial accountability and adherence to established rules and standards.

Lumumba maintained that dealing with corruption stemming from undue political influence requires measures that shield judges from external pressures, such as reforms that limit the ability of political actors and judicial hierarchies to interfere with judicial decisions.

On the issue of depoliticizing the judiciary, Lumumba says mitigating politicizing of the judiciary is vital to preserving its integrity and independence.

“It is essential to ensure that judges are perceived as impartial arbiters of the law, free from undue political influence.,” Lumumba noted. “politicization rears its ugly head in various forms including marginalization of the judiciary by threatening its resource base, rendering it compliant and beggarly.”

To reduce politicization of the judiciary, Lumumba said, judges should never forget to base their decisions solely on legal principles, precedent, and evidence, without regard to political considerations.

“Upholding dignity and decorum of the judiciary is essential for preserving public confidence, Lumumba observed.

in its independence. Lumumba warned that Judges must act with professionalism, restraint, and impartiality, both inside and outside, the courtroom, avoiding actions or statements that could be perceived as politically motivated.

External powers assault African constitutions

Lumumba told legal actors at the conference that African constitutions are invaluably under assault by external powers, noting that those powers want to change African constitutions to have Africa ‘democratized,’ whatever democratize means to them.

“African constitutionals are invaluably under assault by different powers who want to change them in the quest to have Africa democratized, whatever democratized means,” said Prof. Lumumba.

“After the 1900s, there was this breed of new constitutional dispensation when the Western World convinced many African Countries that democracy equaled having [a] free press and free civil society, which led to [changes within] their constitution,” Prof. Lumumba noted.