ARUSHA: AFRICAN countries have been challenged to use modern technology to enhance justice dispensation.
Opening the conference and annual general meeting for Southern and Eastern Africa Chief Justices Forum (SEACJF) here yesterday, President Samia Suluhu Hassan described technology as an essential tool in improving accessibility and facilitating the efficient management of cases.
“We must encourage homegrown technology, mindful of its importance in the judicial circles,” emphasised President Samia.
She told a well-attended gathering which brought together about 15 justices from Southern and Eastern African countries that modern technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform and unlock African potential.
“In the African context, the use of technology will not only change judiciaries but also is a key driver of economic growth, create jobs and increase productivity,” she said.
She informed the delegates that Tanzania had to go digital when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the justice system.
“Trials and court proceedings didn’t stop despite the setback,” she said.
As part of its larger efforts to modernise the court system, Tanzania’s judiciary has implemented multi-faceted reforms to increase transparency, improve efficiency and speed up the delivery of justice in courts that were once allegedly plagued by widespread corruption and inefficiency.
With the help of modern technology, the East African country is using digital tools such as virtual court sessions and e-filing systems to enhance transparency and improve citizens’ access to justice.
Switching from a paper-based filing system to a digital format is expected to help clear a large backlog of cases and ease the burden of time-consuming legal processes and procedures.
For his part, Chief Justice of Tanzania, Professor Ibrahimu Juma, described the forum as an important platform for knowledge sharing and experiences, while his South African counterpart Raymond Mnyamezeli Zondo commended Tanzania for the progress it has made in its judiciary.
“The pandemic didn’t spare us, we had to therefore close business, we are here to learn how Tanzania weathered the storm,” he said.
Yesterday’s meeting was preceded by the Southern, Eastern African Judicial Administrators Association (SEAJAA) annual General Meeting, which among other things, focused on increasing its members.
With 13 members to its name, the association of judicial administrators is eyeing to cover the whole continent, according to its Chairperson Professor Elisante Ole Gabriel.
Professor Ole Gabriel, who is also the Chief Court Administrator of the Judiciary of Tanzania said SEAJAA members include Eswatini, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique. Others are Namibia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Zambia, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
The forum provided a formal platform, structure and framework through which the Chief Justices of Eastern and Southern Africa and Africa at large are able to collectively reflect on critical issues on justice delivery and adopt action plans to address those issues in a systematic and sustained way in order to strengthen justice delivery in the region.
Detailing on the objectives of the body of the judicial administrators, Professor Gabriel said SEAJAA, among other things, entails upholding the rule of law in Africa.
“As you are all aware, rule of law remains a pertinent issue on the continent and we need to promote it for a common judicial interest,” he added.
With its headquarters in Namibia, SEAJAA which was established in 2017, seeks to exchange best practices and foster cooperation among members on matters of common concern, promote the rule of law, democracy and the independence of the Judiciary and its administration and to assist in strengthening institutions tasked with judicial administration in member countries.