This study was commissioned by the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) and was funded by Democratic Governance Facility (DGF). It assesses the costs and benefits of implementing the national legal aid policy and is partly an analysis of what needs to be done to establish a publicly funded national legal aid scheme.
The report is underpinned by significant contributions, including previous studies examining issues of legal aid in Uganda by: the LASPNET, Justice Centres Uganda (JCU), Paralegal Advisory Services (PAS), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Uganda Police Force (UPF), Court of Judicature, and Legal Aid South Africa. In addition, the authors are grateful to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) for permission to access the 2013 National Governance Baseline Survey.
A large section of the Ugandan society cannot afford legal services due to conditions of extreme deprivation. For instance, women from the poorest households are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and, as such, are in dire need of Legal Aid. Over the years, the poor have benefited from legal aid services, mainly through non-state actors; nonetheless, only about one out of every five persons seeking legal aid received the services. In a bid to comprehensively address the legal aid needs of Ugandans, the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and its partners developed the National Legal Aid Policy (NLAP) in 2012.
The policy proposes to change the current legal aid architecture through the adoption of a mixed legal aid delivery model as well as the expansion of access to legal aid services through use of paralegals and students in law clinics and in partnership with civil society. A major hallmark for the policy is the establishment of an independent National Legal Aid Body (NLAB) to oversee the rollout and delivery of a comprehensive legal aid package across Uganda. The legal aid body would have a governing board composed of both state and non state actors. The delivery of legal aid services by the NLAB could be either directed through established structures or non-state cooperating partners. The NLAP places great emphasis on promoting early access to dispute resolution mechanisms. As such, community paralegals are highlighted as one of the key mechanism that offer the best opportunity for quick dispute resolution.
Adoption of the NLAP undoubtedly would be a turning point—that triggers public investment in the provision of legal aid services. There are immense benefits from implementing the proposed NLAP. First, it would reduce the average cost of providing legal aid services. Second, with an expanded publically provided legal aid scheme, it is unlikely that the case backlog in the judiciary will be substantially reduced. Finally, having legal aid service providers accessible across the country would reduce the perceived or actual corrupt practices associated with the courts.
The proposed NLAP is currently in the pipeline for its adoption by the Government of Uganda (GoU), and it has not progressed to Parliament for the last two years. It is awaiting the certificate of financial implication from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development before its adoption by the Cabinet. The Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) through it activities of supporting policy reform and promoting evidence based advocacy in setting the legal aid agenda undertook a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) study of the NLAP. The objective was to provide information for the government to make an informed decision. The study outlines some of the major costs and benefits of investing in legal aid in the medium term.
[Adopted from the Cost Benefit Analysis of the Legal Aid Policy Report published in May 2016 by Legal Aid Service Provider's Network / LASPNET in partnership with the Justice, Law and Order Sector / JLOS]
Justice Centres Uganda (JCU) was established in 2009 as a project of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) hosted and supervised by the Judiciary to provide legal aid. The Justice Centres are a one-stop shop with a broad range of legal aid services to all categories of vulnerable people within the community, identified through a means and merits test. Some of these services include; legal representation, alternative dispute resolution, referrals, human rights awareness creation and outreaches, as well as psychosocial support. The model used seeks to bridge the gap between the demand and supply sides of justice while at the same time empowering individuals and communities to claim their rights and demand for policy change.
JCU has offices in different parts of Uganda covering various districts. These are served through 4 fully fledged Centres (Lira, Tororo, Hoima, and Mmengo) and 3 Service Points (Masaka, Jinja, Fort Portal) which are extensions of JCU to courts where the need for legal aid is greater than usual.
The Justice Centres project is jointly funded by the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), JLOS and the Judiciary.
JCU would like to improve its effectiveness and efficiency to achieve its objectives and assure its relevance in the changing dynamics. The overall objective of the exercise is to carry out an organizational-wide capacity assessment (OCA) which would include identifying the strengths and gaps in management systems, structures, processes and people. JCU also seeks to utilize the key findings of the OCA to inform and guide the development of a five year strategic plan to focus efforts and resources to achieve its mandate
Mrs. Birabwa-Nsubuga Christine is the National Coordinator of Justice Centres Uganda, a legal aid Project of the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) that is hosted by the Judiciary. She explained the objectives of Justice Centres Uganda and the fully fledged national body set to be created to offer these free legal services to those who cannot afford them.
What clear plans are in place to provide legal aid services to the 84% of the Ugandan population who do not have access to these services?
These 84% refer to those who cannot access lawyers because the lawyers are concentrated in Kampala or urban centres. I want to give a background to this. Legal aid is the provision of free legal services to those who cannot afford them. The Uganda Poverty Status Report 2014 suggested that 63.7% of people in Uganda are either living in abject poverty, or are vulnerable to poverty which means that they are barely making it and can tilt into abject poverty anytime.
Access to justice is important for any country and even if you cannot afford a lawyer, you still have to resolve the problem somewhat. Right now most legal aid service providers are non-state actors yet the responsibility lies with the State because the state collects taxes from the people and plans for the people.
According to the Human Rights Based Approach to development planning, When the State is planning it is important to have the most vulnerable and marginalised people such as the children, People with Disabilities (PWDs), women and increasingly the youth in mind. Resources must be channelled to the cause of those who are too poor to help themselves to ensure that there is a balanced economy and even the underprivileged can ably contribute to economic development .
Vision 2040 is planning to move Uganda to an upper middle income country in the next 25 years, we need to think about how we get there. Are people healthy, are they feeding well, can they negotiate a contract, are they aware of their rights and obligations as citizens, among others. Therefore thinking about healthcare, education and access to justice become critical.
People must access justice when they need it. If this elderly under privileged man from Alebtong has grown 7 acres of maize and a middle man from Kampala swindles it, and he has no money to hire a lawyer to go after swindler, there should be free legal services for him so as to enable him take care of his family. When he is swindled and is unable to access to justice, he is useless to Vision 2040. A lot of people are poor and they need these services.
Since 2006, the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) which is charged with the administration of justice, together with her development Partners such as the Democratic Governance Facility(DGF), have been working on the establishment of a national body that will be charged with ensuring that people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer are provided free legal services. Since we have the police to arrest people, prisons to detain suspects, the DPP for prosecution, the Judiciary to try people, its only fair to have an institution that would provide legal support to the overwhelming number of people in Uganda who must either use or go through the administration of justice system.
There is currently no comprehensive law on legal aid service provision and the Sector has therefore, come up with a draft Legal Aid Policy that will guide the establishment of such body and how the body will work, how it will be governed, what kind of lawyers will be hired, the cooperation between civil society and the State in this regard, where the funding will come from among others. This Draft policy has been pending Cabinet approval for a while now.
How will you address the corruption in the courts where the poor lose out because they are out-competed by those who have money?
I understand the issue of corruption in Uganda and how it pervades every aspect of life in Uganda. Transparency International is always ranking the judiciary as first or second in terms of corrupt institutions whether it is perceived or real. If an institution is established to support the poor through the justice system, then far be it that it should join the corruption queue. It would be defeatist for a legal aid service provider to take bribes from the poor! For the last six years, we have ensured Justice Centres Uganda is a corruption free zone. We have strict measures for our staff thus far. I cannot say I will keep corruption away but we have mechanisms in place to ensure that corruption does not flow into free legal services. Because if it does then the whole idea of free legal services will have died. That is why we are discouraging the idea of cost sharing. Pay the court fees, and then we pay this, pay our transport and we pay this… it will open up gaps for people to take bribes from the ordinary person.
In 2013 we conducted a client satisfaction survey, and fortunately everybody we interviewed, about 330 people said no body from Justice Centre Uganda had ever asked them for a bribe.
What will be the structure of the legal aid body once it is in place?
The body will be a national Government body in the form of an Authority, Commission or Department. It is hoped that it will be semi-autonomous, to be able to enforce professional and quality standards in a swift manner. We are looking to mirror the DPP who prosecute alleged law breakers on behalf of the State, so that we have an institution that goes to court on behalf of the people whether is civil or criminal matters. The only qualification will be meeting the criteria for poor and or vulnerable.
The legal aid body will have Headquarters with regional offices to ensure that the services are brought to the lowest grass root levels. To this end a mixed model is proposed where the state body will be complemented by non state actors. It would be important to have some legal support at least up to the Sub county level with the use of properly trained professional paralegals.
It is proposed that the Board of Directors shall consist of people with different expertise; a representative from Uganda Law Society, The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Civil society, academics, psycho social specialists among others. The Uganda Law Council will perform the regulatory function to ensure that the non state actors delivering legal aid meet the minimum standards. The Law Council will be restructured to be able to perform the additional functions and provide accreditation to all non State actors in legal aid service delivery.
The legal aid sub-sector has learned a lot from Legal Aid South Africa because they have the best system in Africa and are also very competitive globally. It is hoped that this learning will continue to ensure that Uganda too provides a professional good quality service to all who deserve it.
Funding and Sustainability
Funding will come primarily from the State and with a lot of goodwill from development partners there is certainty of continued support even when the national institution is established. The Policy proposes the creation of a Legal Aid Fund that will ensure ringfenced resources for legal aid. Furthermore, when the National body wins cases and gets awarded costs, these will be ploughed back in for sustainability. Further sustainability measures will include establishment of a self representation department which will utilize minimal resources, encouraging alternative dispute resolution which is cheaper and faster. Part of the strategy will be to create awareness to the masses which will help reduce the potential legal problems that occur majorly due to lack of information.
What will the body do about laws such as HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act which some people deem discriminatory?
We are going to be covering all aspects of the law. If a person comes to us saying they feel they have been discriminated against by a certain aspect of the law, nothing will stop us from taking it on provided it has merit and the person is poor. Through the delivery of legal aid, we look at Article 21 of the Constitution which talks about equal protection of the law for all. We will address issues of discrimination if they are brought to us and not necessarily go about each law which is considered discriminatory. We are mainly attending to people and issues relating to the poor who cannot afford the services of a lawyer.
The land disputes have mainly affected the poor with many being dispossessed and being evicted from their land. What is the way forward?
More than 70% of all court cases are land related and they are between the haves and the have-nots. Land is a hot commodity, investors want it, everyone wants a piece. Landlords and bibanja owners are in conflict due to the double interest on the same piece of land. Those who cannot afford are being deprived. In the North where land is not registered and customarily owned, widows who are not from the clan owned land are ordered to leave the land. The land cases are clogging the courts endlessly. But in most of these cases we are offering mediation because most of the people involved are related. There are few instances where strangers impose themselves on land. So here we are looking at mediation where we sit down with these people and help them talk. We have found this extremely useful and in fact the courts are now encouraging mediation not just in land matters but in all matters because of its potential to preserve relationships, end the conflict faster and cost less.
How will you ensure proper coordination with the rural communities spread out across Uganda?
Justice Centres Uganda is a Project or forerunner for the legal aid body in the offing. JLOS will find the appropriate name and complete structure. We carried out a study called “A Digestive Report of Best Practices and and Prospects for the Future of National Legal Aid Service Delivery by the Government of Uganda” The study helps to guide; where the legal aid centres should be located, how much the lawyers and other staff should be paid to attract good quality professional staff, the cost of establishing one centre, where the poor are mostly found, how to spread out across the country among other issues, how much it will cost a year to deliver legal aid , so that the Government can plan properly.
So we have thought through the fact that this service must reach the grass roots and it is planned that working together with the districts and the different JLOS institutions, all the rural communities will access legal aid conveniently.
Law is an elitist issue and yet majority of the people you are targeting are ill-educated folks. How do you reconcile this?
We are targeting the poor so we simplify all the laws and put them in easy to read material, translate them into local languages. For instance, we draw pictures of someone paying money and we put a cross indicating that no money is supposed to be paid here. We come down to their levels even when we are doing the outreaches. We speak to these people, listen to them and understand their plight. If we talk about legal aid and speak English, dressed in ways that send them away, then we will not achieve our goal. We have thought through this. When we are going to rural places, we dress appropriately. It is critical that our clientele appreciate our services so we work hard towards that. No one must ever get the impression that because we are giving for free and giving to the poor and vulnerable then anything goes. We must give our best, because we have chosen to provide this service.
Uganda’s population is growing very fast meaning that it may provide a challenge for this Project in terms of numbers.
We are looking at a cascaded kind of spreading of services, to grow as resources permit. We have to plan if we are feeding into Vision 2040. Just as roads have a roadmap from how they were being used in 1960 when we had a population of about 6 million to today when we have a population of 35million. We have a plan to expand legal aid services because so many people need them but it is going to be difficult to satisfy the need instantly. We are going to look for partners and come up with creative ways of meeting that need.
What is your projection for the legal aid services in five years once they are in full gear?
We envision a great contribution to Vision 2040, also a contribution to the economy of Uganda through empowering the marginalised and vulnerable. Five years from now with the policy and law in place, we envision happier people, less conflicts. We envision more access to legal information, a body that will deliver quality, a corruption free institution, and sufficiency of resources to serve the poor. We envision good standards, good customer care, a body that puts the poorest, vulnerable and or marginalised at the centre of legal aid service provision.
This interview was published in The Independent Magazine 04-10 September 2015 Issue.
“My name is Rose (not real name) and I have been referred to you by Judge Richard (not real name) from the Land Division of the High Court of Uganda. I am a Kibanja holder on a piece of land on which I have lived with my late husband for sixty nine years now. My husband passed away in February 2013 and he was buried on the same Kibanja. The week he was buried unidentified people came onto our land in the deep of the night, cut down all the coffee and banana plantations and in the morning, we were informed by one who identified himself as a surveyor that the owners of the land wanted us off. We frantically run around and with our reputation as the poorest family in Masanafu we had no money to give to the police to help us. We none the less approached them and they stated that as the oldest residents of our village, they would do whatever it takes to help us. They had also heard about Justice Centres Uganda (JCU) and they provided us a toll free number which when we called, we got very kind attention to our matter. The surveyor was arrested with the help of JCU and that is how I can still smile today, because of the availability of a free legal service which I could never have dreamed of had I to pay for it myself!”
Eight of Uganda’s international development partners (Austria, Denmark, European Union Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK) combined their experience, expertise and resources to establish the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) (2011-2016) to promote democracy and human rights, enhance access to justice, and improve accountability in Uganda.
Since 2012 the DGF has implemented the Legal Aid Program (LEAP) aimed at improving access to Justice in Uganda by enabling poor, marginalized and vulnerable women, men and children to have access to quality legal aid services. LEAP partners’ interventions have contributed to increasing the geographical coverage and quality of legal aid service delivery, which has enabled more poor, marginalized and vulnerable persons to access legal aid interventions.
The DGF would like to evaluate its interventions in legal aid since 2011/12; and seeks proposals from interested consultant(s) to undertake this assignment
Purpose of the Evaluation:
The overall objective of the Evaluation is to critically assess the design of the LEAP strategies for delivery of legal aid services and aggregated results of LEAP. The evaluation will also review LEAP partners’ progress towards achieving the DGF program objectives and provide guidance to future investments in Access to Justice.
1. To provide a context analysis for access to Justice, and examine the role of LEAP within this context.
2. To critically assess the design of LEAP; and provide an analysis of the role and adequacy of legal aid interventions to enhance Access to Justice for poor, vulnerable and marginalized Ugandans.
3. To assess the progress of LEAP partners in achieving DGF’s objectives in Access to Justice.
4. To document the results and/or outcomes of LEAP partner interventions in legal aid.
5. To assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the models of legal aid service delivery in view of standardization, accessibility, sustainability and cost effectiveness.
6. To examine the innovative and/or cost effective models of legal aid service delivery worth replication. Such models need not necessarily be of LEAP partners.
7. Provide recommendations to guide DGF’s objective setting and future investments in Access to Justice.
The Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) in partnership with Justice Centres Uganda (JCU) with support from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) held the 3rd annual National Legal aid Conference on August 10, 2015 at the Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo. H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was the Chief guest. Also present was the Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Bart Katureebe, the Deputy Attorney General and State Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutaana, the Netherlands ambassador to Uganda, H.E Alphons Hennekens, judges of the high court and appellate courts, members of parliament, civil society, members of the public and officials from all JLOS institutions.
The purpose of this Conference was to create awareness about the on-going efforts to establish a policy, law and national institution on Legal Aid. The ultimate objective of the Conference was to fast track the establishment of the National Legal Aid Body. The President in his key note address during the opening of the conference pledged to have the legal aid bill introduced on the floor of parliament. He said this was in line with the government’s consistent efforts over the years in improving the welfare of all Ugandans especially the poor who are weighed down by the bondages of poverty and corruption through various interventions that directly impact on the vulnerable. Government is therefore in full support of the establishment of the body and will provide the requisite guidance and support towards this cause.
What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid is the provision of free legal services to the poor, vulnerable and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of paid lawyers. Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provides for equality before the Law. To ensure equality of all persons before the Law and to enhance access to Justice, the provision of Legal Aid is critical. The Government of Uganda has put in place measures to ensure that there is fairness in the Administration of Justice. Currently, State legal aid service providers include the Judiciary through the State Brief Scheme under which every person charged with a Capital offence is provided with an advocate at the Cost of the State. Justice Centres Uganda which is a Project of the Justice Law and Order Sector provides Legal Aid on behalf of the State across civil and criminal justice. Legal aid is also provided by non-state actors such as FIDA and the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society.
The need for a national legal aid body
The Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) with support from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and in consultation with other state and non-state actors developed the National Legal Aid Policy which is currently before cabinet for approval. After that, a National Legal Aid Bill shall be tabled before Parliament. The passing of this law will result in the establishment of a National Body with a mandate to provide Legal Aid across all areas of the Law.
Key emerging issues from the 3rd National Legal aid Conference
1. There are constitutional and legislative guarantees for legal aid in Uganda. The right to legal aid is part of the right to a fair trial. Legal aid is a necessity; it is a human right which contributes to access to justice, enhancing good governance, democracy and development in the country. Ultimately, legal aid contributes to transformation of the lives of the communities at all levels.
2. There are challenges in provision of legal aid including lack of guaranteed funding; the absence of a policy and legislation; few legal aid service provision centres located far away from the people, inadequate personnel; as well as some systemic challenges affecting the entire Justice, Law and Order Sector.
3. Legal aid services are not merely about the law and lawyers but about the kind of justice and legal system that is desirable in the country that is a requisite for improving the quality of life of the communities. Legal aid is necessary in both criminal and civil matters. It is not just a part of the justice system, but a critical part of the economic development of the country.
4. The State is ultimately responsible for provision of legal aid services as it is the duty of the state to ensure access to justice. Nevertheless, the role of non-state providers like CSOs and the private sector should be enhanced.
5. Development partners have been supporting legal aid by both state institutions and civil society. There is good will and willingness from development partners to continue supporting provision of legal aid. Uganda being a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights could also benefit from international technical cooperation for support to legal aid provision.
6. There is need for creative ways of ensuring that legal aid provision reaches all people that are in need of it; including through the use of technology. Examples were shared from South Africa and the United States of the ways in which legal aid is provided to the people.
7. For sustainability of legal aid provision, any such mechanism must be sensitive to the needs of the people it is meant for; must be realistic about the existing or likely challenges; and must be concerned about the impact the service will have on the people. The mechanism must guarantee quality legal services and therefore should be able to attract and retain experienced lawyers and must effectively be accountable for public funds.
8. The attitude within the legal fraternity towards legal aid needs to change so that legal services are taken as part of their legal practice and a duty to which lawyers should commit themselves fully, whether paid or not.
9. Judges can creatively play an important role to ensure commitment from the lawyers to provide legal aid and quality representation either in open court or in their chambers.
10. In making legal aid provision attractive to lawyers, other opportunities other than the pay, such as mentoring, career development, and learning should be equally emphasized and promoted.
11. There is need for effective communication of the importance of legal aid to all key stakeholders such as Parliament and the general public so that the purpose of the ongoing initiatives on legal aid can be achieved.
12. The consensus of the conference was that a legal aid system adequately funded by the government is necessary in Uganda and long overdue; not only for the state to comply with national and international obligations, but to bring on board more people in need of legal services thus making the justice system more desirable and effective. Government was urged to expedite the enactment of the national legal aid policy and Bill now before Cabinet.
13. There is need to bring legal aid initiatives under one umbrella body to enhance its contribution to the transformation of communities and to also address the prevailing challenges to the effectiveness of existing initiatives. In this regard, there is need to establish a body with a solid legal basis hence the urgency to pass the national policy and the Bill; which body should be accountable and subject to the existing public finance laws; and have a mandate to provide quality legal services as well as public education and information.
14. Judges should enhance their outreach programmes to engage with the people to enhance public awareness and confidence in the justice system.
15. There is need for Uganda to adopt a national language so as to address the communication barriers that often affect ordinary people as they try to access the justice that largely operates in English the official language.
16. The conference appealed for wholehearted support from the government for the establishment of an effective legal aid system in Uganda.
Assurances from H.E the President
1. The President welcomed the proposal for a National Legal Aid Scheme and assured the conference of government commitment to addressing vulnerability in access to justice. He announced that the Legal Aid Bill would soon be introduced in Parliament.
2. The President also supported the proposal by the Chief Justice to have a chief magistrate in each district and a professional magistrate in every sub-country.
3. The President assured the conference that the JLOS will be supported to automate court processes and re-engineer procedures to reduce the time for accessing the courts; to ensure that unrepresented litigants are facilitates to use the legal system; and that paralegals are promoted to supplement the role of the legal profession in providing services to the people.
4. The President reiterated support to the construction of the JLOS House through the PPP and assured the conference that the necessary resources would be provided to ensure the project is implemented.
By Edgar Kuhimbisa
It’s my pleasure to address you concerning Legal Aid in Uganda and particularly, the upcoming National Legal Aid Conference due to take place on 10th August 2015 at the Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo. The Purpose of this Conference is to create awareness about the on-going efforts to establish a Policy, Law and National Institution on Legal Aid. The ultimate objective of the Conference is to fast track the establishment of the National Legal Aid Body. Legal Aid is the provision of free legal services to the poor, vulnerable and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of paid lawyers. Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provides for Equality before the Law. To ensure equality of all persons before the Law and to enhance access to Justice, the provision of Legal Aid is critical.
As such, Government of Uganda has put in place measures to ensure that there is fairness in the Administration of Justice. Currently, State legal aid service providers include the Judiciary through the State Brief Scheme under which every person charged with a Capital offence is provided with an advocate at the Cost of the State, Justice Centres Uganda which is a Project of the Justice Law and Order Sector that provides Legal Aid on behalf of the State across civil and criminal justice and the Human Rights Commission. Legal aid has thus far been provided by non state actors such as FIDA and the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society.
The Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) with support from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and in consultation with other state and non state actors developed the National Legal Aid Policy which is currently before cabinet for approval. After that, a National Legal Aid Bill shall be tabled before Parliament. The passing of this law will result in the establishment of a National Body with a mandate to provide Legal Aid across all areas of the Law.
The Government is committed to supporting programmes that promote economic development.The provision of legal Aid greatly empowers individuals and communities as a whole and as such, a comprehensive delivery of State funded legal Aid would in the long term result in the realisation of Uganda’s development aspirations espoused in Vision 2040.
To have Legal Aid in place, the Government and indeed all the other stakeholders will need to be clear on how it will be funded and how sustainable this funding will be. Furthermore, it is critical that the service offered is of good professional quality and that there are standards in place to ensure this. The Conference is therefore, going to spend a significant amount of time investigating these issues and to this end we have invited legal aid practitioners from other jurisdictions including South Africa and the USA to learn from the best. They will share experiences on how they have ensured a sustainable professional legal aid service delivery to the extent that in South Africa, even people who can afford the service are requesting the legal aid programme to open a section for those who can afford. We know that these will go a long way in informing Uganda’s efforts towards legal aid delivery by the State.
The conference shall be officiated by H.E. the President of the Republic of Uganda and at this conference, we shall take stock of how far we have come and come up with a way forward on when, how, how much money, and all other modalities required to support legal aid services by the State of Uganda.
Government is therefore in full support of the establishment of the body and will provide the requisite guidance and support towards this cause. I therefore invite you to create as much awareness as possible about these efforts in order to generate discussions and consultations about what this service should look like.
I thank you!
HON. MWESIGWA RUKUTANA (M.P)
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL AND STATE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE & CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
Issued: August 7, 2015 at the Uganda Media Centre, Kampala
Legal aid is the provision of free or subsidized legal services to mainly poor and vulnerable people who cannot afford the services of paid lawyers. The right to legal aid is well entrenched in the International and Regional human rights treaty framework to most of which Uganda is a state party. The provision of legal aid addresses the concerns of the poor and vulnerable by focusing on challenges arising from: affordability of user costs, lack of legal representation, and alienation due to technicalities, language and ignorance of legal rights.
Poverty, ignorance of the law, the effect of armed conflict, disability or other vulnerability or marginalization are some of the factors that undermine access to justice for the majority of Ugandans. The provision of Legal Aid will greatly contribute to the empowerment of individuals and communities – a key ingredient of poverty reduction efforts thereby contributing to economic development.
The provision of Legal Aid by the state will not only benefit particular affected individuals but the state as a whole. It will reduce case backlog by ensuring that litigants do not file frivolous cases. In turn, the time that would have been spent in the lengthy litigation process will be used to engage in productive activities. The Government of Uganda banks on the agricultural sector to boost economic growth. Notably, Agriculture in Uganda is done in the rural areas by the people who are most affected by poverty. When these people interface with the Justice system, they usually spend their little earnings, in the unpredictable and lengthy litigation. With legal Aid, such persons would be given appropriate legal advice, which would save their time and see them invest their energies in productive work.
About the Conference
Every year, with support from Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Justice Centres Uganda and other non-state actors under the Legal Aid Service Provider’s Network (LASPNET) brings together key decision makers to discuss Legal Aid service provision in Uganda and to track its progress. This year’s conference is organized under the theme; “Sustainable Funding and Legal Aid Service Delivery by the State” and shall be held from August 9-10, 2015 at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala. H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda is expected to grace the occasion as the chief guest. By drawing lessons from other Jurisdictions such as South Africa where the Legal Aid scheme has worked excellently and with guidance from key stakeholders in the Government of Uganda, participants will discuss the sustainability of a state funded Legal Aid Body in Uganda.
The 3rd Annual Legal Aid Conference is intended;
1) To discuss the current efforts to establish a National Legal Aid body.
2) To discuss the sustainability of a state funded Legal Aid Body.
3) To share the lessons and best practices learnt in Legal Aid service delivery.
The conference shall bring together key stakeholders, policy and decision makers in Uganda including representatives from the Executive, Parliament, Judiciary, other Government Diplomatic missions and civil society organisations among others.
For more information, Contact:
Justice Centres Uganda
National Coordination office. Chambers F6 and F8, High Court Building, Kampala.
P. O. Box 26365 Kampala
Tel: Office: +256 414 256626
Toll free line: 080 010 0210
Media and Publicity:
The media fraternity has been called upon to sensitize the public on the issue of legal aid as part of corporate social responsibility to society. This call was made by the Judiciary Chief Registrar, Mr. Paul Gadenya while opening a media workshop organized by Justice Centres Uganda at Hotel Africana held on May 7 2015. Mr. Gadenya asked the media to take advantage of its deeper reach and available platforms to advance the noble cause of legal aid. Mr. Gadenya who revealed that 90% of users of the legal system are poor and cannot afford a lawyer lauded efforts of Justice Centres Uganda for championing their rights of the indigent enshrined in the Constitution. “The law is made for the protection of all citizens, poor and rich alike. It is therefore the duty of the state to make its machinery work …for the rich and the poor”, he said.
The National Coordinator, Justice Centres Uganda (JCU), Ms. Christine Birabwa Nsubuga took participants through the basics of the National legal aid policy. She described the National Legal Aid Policy as an instrument that provides the foundation for Legal Aid to all deserving Ugandans and challenged the media to advocate for its approval by Cabinet and subsequent operationalization.
During the plenary discussions, participants engaged Justice Centre’s officials in interactive discussions on how issues of publicity and media advocacy of legal aid can be addressed. The media pledged to work closely with Justice Centres Uganda in legal aid outreach through consistent engagement on various platforms and forums. Officials from Justice Centres were also on hand to respond to questions raised by the media in regard to JCU’s legal aid service provision model.
Over 50 representatives of the Uganda media fraternity (print and electronic) participated in this event that set the stage for a concerted media campaign by Justice Centres to sensitize the public on matters of legal aid.
By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: May 8, 2015