The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, has interested a donor agency seeking partnerships in Uganda to finance the processing and implementation of the Legal Aid Bill.
Oulanyah, who was meeting a team from International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) on Tuesday, 3 September 2019 in his boardroom, said that finances had constrained the progress of the legal aid framework.
“The government needs Shs17 billion per year to be able to finance the Legal Aid Bill, as a result the law has been shelved for years,” said Oulanyah.
He reiterated that it is crucial for the country to fast track the Legal Aid Bill, cognisant that many Ugandans cannot access justice.
“There are many people in the country who have nowhere to go, they have lost their property, they cannot afford a lawyer or even filing fees,” Oulanyah said adding that “This is one key area where we need to raise funds so that we begin to support people.”
Oulanyah mentioned that he has rallied the European Union and other partners to consider mobilising resources privately to offset the Legal Aid Bill and facilitate its implementation.
The Deputy Speaker was elated on learning that IDLO is considering funding programmes on customary justice in Uganda. Customary justice is a system where indigenous practices and customs provide alternative mechanism of justice from the formal systems.
Irene Khan, the IDLO Director General, said that customary justice, if well-handled, helps to fill gaps in legal aid provision since the formal systems is costly.
“We are saying that not every case should go through the formal legal systems, because it is costly. Even when the cost is lowered, it is still inaccessible to communities located within long distances from judicial centers,” said Khan.
Khan is leading a team from IDLO Rome and Uganda in country engagements with key government agencies. Khan says their visit is aimed at introducing IDLO to government in order to re-align funding priorities.
IDLO is an inter-governmental organisation that promotes legal, regulatory and institutional reform to advance economic and social development in transitional and developing countries.