Posted: 6 July 2018
Wednesday turned out to be just as busy as Tuesday. In the morning we visited a police station, to see the vital impact the UCLF paralegals have there. We spoke with those being held on remand. This encounter was sensually overwhelming. The sight: a group of men and women without shoes, surviving on one meal a day. The smell: the cells are designed to hold people overnight, or for a week at most; some had been held for over a week. The sounds: "Can you help me now?"
(c.70% of the Uganda prison population are remand prisoners, such is the backlog of cases. Even those who would receive state legal aid for the most serious cases only receive it once the case is fully prepared by the prosecution and court-ready.)
The officers were as candid as the suspects: they have asked us to pray that they would love their jobs, for health to sustain them in their work, and that officers would come to know God so that corruption can be conquered.
If the morning presented the problem, the afternoon offered hope and solution. We first met with LASPNET, a network of legal aid service providers. In the UK, the phrase 'legal aid' is only used to refer to state support, but in Uganda it also includes legal assistance from NGOs. All those in the network have a firm commitment to access to justice. From there we went to the Ugandan Law Society, to learn more about their legal aid project, funded by the Norwegian Bar Association.
After a heavy day, the team had the opportunity to let their hair down at the Ndere Cultural Show – a dancing extravaganza, showcasing traditional dances from across Uganda. Needless to say, the team needed no encouragement to get up and join in at the end!