By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Makerere University: As Makerere University Law School’s Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) marked 10th Anniversary on Tuesday, stakeholders in the Law sector sought that National Legal Aid Bill, 2022 would be expedited to help create a voice for the vulnerable Ugandan population.
If passed, the Bill seeks to define Government’s obligation in relation to the provision of legal aid to vulnerable persons, to create Justice Centres Uganda and designate them as the government agency responsible for providing legal aid on behalf of it, repeal the Poor Persons Defense Act, to make provision for the grant of legal aid services to indigent and vulnerable persons and others.
Sandra Oryema, the Head of Legal Aid Unit at Makerere University Law School-under PILAC stated that the celebrations started with Legal Aid Day that focused on having the community access University premises to receive a number services freely since it is hard for them to maneuver solely.
“We realized that People With Disabilities (PWDs) are the most vulnerable people in our community yet they also need to know how they can fit in the framework of the legal aid, in this we partnered with Disability Law and Rights Center in pursuit of this’’. Said Ms. Oryema.
“This group of people has been facilitated this morning which has helped them to know their rights, whether they are violated and where they can run to in case they have any dissatisfaction”. She added.
As PILAC, ‘We are looking at producing law students who are ready to give legal aid for free to vulnerable communities because there are many in search category who don’t access such a service because they don’t have money and are overwhelmed with fear’.
She revealed that in 10 years of PILAC, they have been able to register tangible development citing a win of land eviction case (Muhindo James & Others vs Attorney General) which was ruled in favor of Muhindo by the High Court of Uganda on 25th January 2019, replication of Law Clinic models in other universities and a provision in National Legal Aid Bill, 2022 that seeks all Universities to have have Law Clinics.
Dr. Damalie Nagita Musoke the Coordinator of Disability Law and Rights Center mentioned that they usually sensitize People with Disabilities (PWDs) to ensure their inclusivity in the community in such days and beyond.
“As PILAC marks 10 years, there is an ongoing ‘Know your rights campaigns’ and in this we’ve brought important stakeholders in Disability Rights activism to equip PWDs with relevant information for them to make a shift in their livelihood before the law and inclusion.
She stated that there is Persons with Disabilities Act, 2020 which replaced an older one that had untold gaps regarding needs of PWDs, but highlighted that while it is in place, there is slow implementation of its provisions for it to effectively benefit the people it is intended to.
She also noted with concern that disability inclusion is the other unanswered question because it needs funding to enable PWDs access basic needs like materials to use, special consideration on employment, basic education and others.
Ms. Nabalayo Oliver, the Social Development Officer/Rights at Ministry of Gender, labour and Social Development (MGLSD) revealed that there are many government initiatives geared towards promotion/protection of rights amongst PWDs for example,
Government expanded funding for Monitoring and support supervision of Special Grant for persons with Disabilities in Local Governments.
She also noted that they are working hard to ensure Inclusive education for children with Disabilities. She said, over the past years, Government has made the following achievements, procured specialized equipment for learners with special learning needs for example braille machines, laptops with jaws among others.
The National Special Grant for Persons with Disabilities: aimed at promoting economic empowerment and improved livelihood for Persons with Disabilities.
“The Community Based Rehabilitation Programme, vocational Rehabilitation Centers in the different regions are in place to offer employable skills to Persons with Disabilities” Said Ms. Nabalayo.
She added that through Labour inspections, employers and owners of buildings are required to cater for people with special needs to ease accessibility to services by persons with disabilities.
For Okoku Richard Frank a beneficiary of PILAC from Kabalagala in Makindye Division testified they have benefited it its initiative as they have been empowered and sensitized regarding their rights.
He however asked that that PILAC should conduct a Legal Aid Clinic at least after every month since community members are many-with issues as well to increase the number of lawyers for them to easily access legal services in time.