May 12, 2005

Government and donors criticise justice system

The Mozambican government and many of the country's main donors have agreed that the lethargic Mozambican justice system is a crucial obstacle to development. "Slow progress in the reform of the legal system may undermine the trust of citizens in the democratic institutions of the state, and their ability to combat crime and corruption", warns an Aide-Memoir agreed between the government and the donors. The Aide-Memoir is the culmination of a joint review of government and donor performance that had began in March. The donors concerned are those who give aid directly to the state budget, and are known as "Programme Aid Partners". They include the World Bank, the European Union, Canada, and all significant European donors. The two significant donors who are still not giving "Programme aid" are the United States and Japan.

The Aide-Memoir points to progress in poverty reduction, but expresses serious concern over the courts and over corruption. It notes that cases pending in the courts continue to pile up, and "the ratio between cases investigated and cases concluded in the areas of corruption and economic crimes remains low. Communication with the public about the outcome of important cases remains pending."

For the future, the Aide-Memoir insists that there should be an improvement in the number of corruption cases tried and sentenced. The courts, it adds, "need to be accessible to the poorest strata of the population and to work in support of development by creating an environment favourable to business and private investment". As for the desperate overcrowding in Mozambican prisons, the Aide-Memoir believes the time has come for drastic measures. The majority of prisoners in the jails have never been sentenced - they are pre-trial detainees. There are not enough judges to deal with them all, and so the Aide-Memoir suggests using "other instances (including law teachers, trainee judges, the Judicial Training Centre, and legal consultants posted to the prisons) as well as resorting to arbitration to solve conflicts".

The Aide-Memoir also criticised donors, and pointed out that around a third of the donors are not presenting the promised quarterly reports on aid flows, nor had there been much improvement in the predictability of aid disbursements or reducing the administrative burden. "Fragmentation of aid remains", it noted, with a failure to concentrate efforts and divide donor labour effectively. It cited education as a clear example - there are 26 separate donors active in the education sector. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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