UCU legal aid clinic hope: Darkness to light
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/09/ucu-legal-aid-clinic-hope-darkness-to-light/
By Constantine Odongo
Kafumbe Kiiza is a taxi driver in Kampala, Uganda. Although his dream was to earn a living off of cars, he never saw himself as a driver. His first love was repairing cars.
As such, six years ago, he enrolled into an institute in Kampala to pursue a course in motor vehicle mechanics. Kiiza had a steady flow of income to pay tuition for his course. The now 30-year-old was a salesman at a shop in the city suburb of Nsambya, opposite the St. Francis Hospital gate and about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the city centre. His widowed mother, Petrolina Nakalema, and one of Kiiza’s brothers operated adjacent shops – all on land owned by and supporting the family of 12.
One Monday morning in 2014, Kiiza and his family woke up to a rude shock. Five shops, including the ones where Kiiza, his brother and his mother worked, were razed and the plot of land fenced off with iron sheets.
They were alarmed and questioned who might do this when they still had 23 three years on the lease. Never did it ever cross their minds that some other people also claimed ownership of the same plot of land. When they sought answers from authorities, Kiiza says the family was informed that a neighbouring school was responsible for fencing off the land.
In the process of seeking justice, Kiiza’s family changed lawyers three times, due mostly to high legal costs.
Such is one case brought to light during a legal aid clinic conducted by Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) law fraternity on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero. Kiiza did not plan to attend the clinic. In fact, he did not even intend to be at All Saints Cathedral that Saturday.
Kiiza was going about his usual duties of driving a commuter taxi that day. He received a call to transport people to and from a wedding at the cathedral. While waiting on his passengers for the return trip, he roamed the cathedral. He wandered pass UCU’s tear drop banners into a white tent for the free legal aid clinic conducted by UCU.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard ‘pro bono’,” Kiiza said of the term that means legal work without cost.
Lazaka Tibakuno, a development assistant at UCU, said the team that day was comprised of five lecturers (with four practicing lawyers) in the university’s faculty of law, 15 law students and representatives from the university’s law society. The clinic was timed to promote the Sept. 29, 2019, “UCU Sunday.” The third annual UCU Sunday is set aside by the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, marked on the last Sunday of September every year. The purpose is to support UCU as the Anglican Church joins in solidarity to support her provincial university in prayer, to increase awareness of UCU value and accountability and offer UCU financial support.
Tibakuno says the university asked faculties to submit proposals about a corporate social responsibility event. From the submissions, he says, the law faculty’s legal aid clinic proposal was found to be the most cost-effective while also touching a core of community need. Two clinics were held on September 21 in Nakasero and on September 22 at St. Philip & Andrew’s Cathedral, Mukono.
Last year’s collection was $52,000, which was earmarked for two projects – 90% towards equipping the laboratories of the UCU School of Medicine and the remainder for scholarships for the clergy and their children under the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology. Tibakuno says the collections this year will benefit the same purposes.
Solomon Byamukama, a fourth-year law student at the university who has participated in several legal aid clinics before, said Saturday’s event had topics similar to other he has attended with questions involving custody of children and maintenance of the state of a deceased; land matters; the dos and don’ts in writing and executing wills; and issues pertaining to domestic violence.
While most at the clinic were seeking advice on the regular, expected issues like Kiiza’s land dispute, a security officer at a checkpoint asked for help for a brother wrongfully imprisoned on a murder charge.
“Someone had convinced us that we could bribe the prisons staff with some money, so they can release my brother,” he said. “However, I have been advised that we should instead look for ways of supporting the defense team so that they can better represent my brother in court, and, if possible, also secure bail for him.”
For Kiiza, he came, consulted, and left the clinic tent feeling optimistic about a nearly six-year-old land case. As his wedding passengers entered his taxi, he held a piece of paper with contacts of people and organizations that the lawyers advised could be of help to his family, and for free.
Individuals can be part of the UCU Sunday by contributing towards the special collection in all Anglican churches in Uganda on September 29. Money also can be deposited in Uganda on the UCU Sunday collection account number 16300370000131, in PostBank Uganda or deposited as mobile money on 0772770852. For Americans and others wishing to contribute, go to https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/ and indicate “UCU Sunday” in the special instructions/comment box or send a check in the mail payable to UCU Partners with instructions for the UCU Sunday designation and to Uganda Partners, P.O. Box 114, Sewickley, Pa. 15143.