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A tour of Kabarole DCC

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KABAROLE - It started at a light note as members of various committees shared results of outstanding assignments on various judicial matters. Like a bomb slowly daring to explode, the meeting slowly boiled from one controversy to another; but thankfully members appeared more than willing to embrace change. First was a submission by one member on the use of the L.C Court as a best practice for diverting petty offences. It wasn’t long before another official threw in a challenge insisting that L.C Courts are acting illegally having been pronounced outlawed by the Constitutional court and therefore have no mandate to handle any case. The general feeling at the end of the day with guidance from the chairperson was that the illegality of L.C courts notwithstanding, the role of L.C courts in case diversion cannot be overstated.

However, it was deemed imperative that government addresses the L.C courts anomaly to straighten judicial service provision. Petty cases are said to be overstretching the magistrates and also inconveniencing the children especially when their cases cannot be expeditiously disposed of and are subjected to the adversarial methods of prosecution.

Next was the issue of questionable postmortems of defilement victims where an advocate submitted that some medical officers simply fill in forms without proper examination of the victims. Under-staffing in hospitals was underlined; where, for example, the referral hospital is supposed to be equipped with 41 doctors but currently has only 18. As a best practice, the police is also supposed to have a police surgeon to address medical evidence issues, but there’s none. The Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital Director Dr. Olaro Charles urged for calmness saying that they are doing their best within the limited resources. 

Members were dismayed at the fact that the Remand Home is overstretched by having to handle cases of juveniles brought in from very far off districts. They observed that the costs involved in transporting such offenders to and from their courts of respective jurisdiction, extremely overstretches the Remand Home’s limited resources. His Worship Samuel Emokor said that the Resident Judge was making plans to summon Chief Administrative Officers within the Western region to devise means to address this gap. Children are brought in from as far as Mbarara and Rukungiri.

There was mention of the inaccessibility of Birth Certificates, which are a key resource in age determination. Members noted that Birth Certificates are issued at Sub-county level, which discourages many people considering the long distances involved. A suggestion was made to have people pick birth certificates from their local churches but this was said to be equally difficult especially that the way the certificates were designed, they have not room for alternative collection points. The committee in charge of family matters and the district Chief Administrative Officer were tasked to explore possibilities and advise the DCC in subsequent meetings.

On a rather positive note, arising from observations in the previous DCC meeting, members sought to know the status of Fort Portal Remand Home, which was earlier facing difficulties in terms of feeding. The Remand Home In-charge Ms. Theopista Bacwa explained to the meeting that they had received food support from the Regional Prisons Commander with support from the DCC Chair and basic support from the Rotary Club of Kabarole.

The DCC meeting was attended by over 40 actors representing various institutions among them; Chief Magistrates, CAOs, Legal officers, Paralegals, Fit persons, Advocates, DPC, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Superintendents of Prisons, Child and Family Protection Unit, Police, and Hospital authorities. The next meeting was scheduled to be held at the Tooro kingdom council chambers.


*It’s a JLOS guideline that meetings rotate to different institutions and that institutional heads chair. This aims at interesting institutions to be fully part of the DCC by allowing a few more members to attend to learn more about the DCC and for sustainability purposes.


Fort Portal Remand Home, established in 1975

Soon after we entered the Remand Home gate at about 10.30am, we were welcomed by the sight of a group of juveniles anxiously waiting in the compound. We later learnt that these were awaiting a local government vehicle though the assistant CAO to transport them to court for hearing of their cases. The remand Home van has been in Kampala for about a month pending repairs.

The J4C team decided to immediately offer its van to ensure that these juveniles did not miss their court session. By the time our meeting at the Remand Home was done, we received news that 4 out of the 8 children taken to court had been set free.

The OIC Ms. Theopista Bacwa, thanked J4C for the timely intervention offered particularly in times of crisis. She further took cognizance of the noble roles played in tracing relatives of juveniles to enable them get surety, lobbying for children’s cases to be cause listed, provision of fuel, resettlement of the released and counseling services and diversion of petty cases at police level. At the time of our visit, there were 40 juveniles in the Remand Home, 39 males and 1 female, 18 of whom are held on capital offences. Majority of the juveniles (19) were brought in from Kasese district, which is outside the Kabarole DCC. 

Ms. Theopista Bacwa amused the visiting team when she cited a case of a juvenile that had been arrested and brought to the remand Home, accused of stealing a duck. When he was set free, he refused to go home saying that there was no food at home. “As a Remand Home, our principle is that home is the best place for a child to stay”, said Theopista.

Scarcely had we left the Remand Home premises, when another juvenile was brought in by a government vehicle accompanied by a plane clothed person and a uniformed police officer. He had been committed in Rukungiri district on a murder charge, but being that the Fort Portal Remand Home is the only facility in the entire Western Region, there was no other alternative place to detain him. Theopista estimated the cost of transporting such a single juvenile to be in the range of Sh500,000/=, which is massive, considering that this child must be transported back when his case is due again for hearing.

But for all the challenges faced by the Remand Home, it’s only fair to recognize the fact that the children are being kept in a very neat and homely environment. We found them enjoying local music videos on TV, and when we spoke to a few of them, they sounded to be in a repentant mood.


Children in contact with the law-Meeting with Principle Officer I in charge Women Prison

We spoke with Afande Catherine Okware, who praised government for passing a budget last year to ensure adequate facilitation for children who find themselves in prison because of their mothers’ arrest. According to Catherine, unlike yesteryears, nowadays the children are provided good food including bananas, eggs, fruits, Mukene, soya porridge and clothing. Each child is entitled to Sh100, 000 per quarter of 3 months. The prison only caters for children up to 24 months of age whilst their mothers are still in detention. Thereafter, they are released to the community in the care of guardians identified by their mothers.

I spoke to one Rosemary Kamuli convicted to 6 months imprisonment for murdering her co-wife. Rose was remanded when she was 6 months pregnant. She delivered her child now one and a half years of age while in prison and the thought of separating with her child seemed really painful. “The father will take care of her. I don’t feel good separating with my daughter. It would be better to go with her, but nothing to do”, she said. In 6 months’ time, her little baby who has since learnt good manners of greeting visitors; will be taken away after clocking 24 months, and it won’t be until 2018 that the two will fully re-unite.

The Justice for Children programme works hard to ensure that cases of detained pregnant and lactating mothers are heard expeditiously to lessen the likely impact on their innocent children. Rosemary Kamuli was one of the beneficiaries of this arrangement as she was committed within a period of only 4 months. According to J4C Coordinator Brendah Kyomugisha, without intervention, murder cases may sometimes drag on for at least 6 months before committal, later on years without appearing in court, which keeps suspects longer in detention with huge implications on their children. Currently there are 46 inmates, with 5 infants; 2 girls and 3 boys. The numbers have reduce because of the J4C intervention for bail application, and resettling of so far 02 children, offering transport to at least 05 mother that have so been released in the last one and half years.

Voice of the District Police Commander

According to the DPC Kabarole SP Kaheebwa Geoffrey, before the inception of the Justice for Children Programme, the situation was so bad. Children were detained together with adults, children were detained beyond the mandatory 24 hours, there was not provision for diversion of petty cases, there were no stakeholders following up children’s cases, and all offenders were recorded in a single register.

However, things have since 2013, taken a different turn: Today, police has a reception facility for male and female juveniles, has adopted diversion and also allows room for mediation before children’s cases are forwarded to the courts, and no arrests for pregnant and lactating mothers (this however does not mean that their cases are dropped). Police guidelines on the implementation of the Children Act, cases considered petty and therefore subject to diversion include; common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm, malicious damage of property, criminal trespass, petty theft, affray, prostitution and threatening violence, among others. However, SP Kaheebwa emphasized that police reserves the right to deny the benefit of diversion to especially repeated offenders.

He commended the interventions of J4C in following up delayed cases, facilitation of dialogue meetings, and tracing of juveniles’ relatives. A total of 105 juvenile cases have been reported between January and August 2014, 33 under inquiry, 28 taken to court, and 44 have been diverted. 


By Tumusiime K. Deo