Legal problems in daily life

Ground breaking survey by ACORD Uganda and HiiL shows that access to legal justice in Uganda is patchy and unfair; solutions are urgently needed.

The justice needs of Ugandans have been extensively mapped for the first time. Ground breaking research carried out by ACORD Uganda in partnership with HiiL (The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law, based in The Hague, the Netherlands), shows that in the last four years nearly nine out of 10 Ugandans required access of some kind to the justice system, but their needs are not being met.

Of the nine people that needed help, three of them gave up right off the bat and their problems were not resolved. This was due to lack of knowledge, power or money, or some combination of the three. As for the other six, many found legal processes – and ultimately the solutions – to be unfair. As a result, it is clear that many people are needlessly suffering.

A total of 6.202 Ugandan citizens were interviewed over the course of the research. The findings have just been published in the report ‘Legal Problems in Daily Life'. The report discusses the difficulties of ordinary Ugandans in accessing justice and receiving fair outcomes for their daily justice problems. Most worrying, the 30% who receive no justice at all, disproportionally comprises the most vulnerable segments of the population: those with low incomes or who are unemployed, women, elderly people and people with low education levels and people from rural areas.

During the launch of the report in Kampala on 14 April 2016, Honourable Principle Judge Yorakamu Bamwine said: “[w]e should not be offended by these findings. (...), just focus on change, the rest will come naturally.” The Honourable Principle Judge mentioned several innovations that are already being implemented in the courts, but also stresses a need for further innovations and the role the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) will take on to assure change. JLOS is a sector wide justice reform process ongoing in Uganda.

Of the two thirds of people who pursue a solution to their problems, most seek help of the Local Council Courts, their families and their social networks. Only 5% of cases end up in a court of law. In practice, this means the formal justice system in Uganda is out of reach for the majority of Ugandans.

“Clearly these numbers need to be reversed: nine (if not 10) out of 10 Ugandans must be given access to justice. In doing so, individuals can secure their income and livelihoods, a positive effect that ripples through the economy and society, says HiiL’s CEO, Sam Muller.

The fact that this research reflects the experiences and concerns of everyday citizens gives it a legitimate foundation on which to build. The commitment of JLOS to act on its findings and come forward with solutions is encouraging.

Rachel Odoi, Senior Technical Advisor at JLOS (in photo above) stresses: “This report could have a tremendous impact on the future of the justice system in Uganda. It is a useful baseline on which we can devise strategies on where we want to be in the next five years. The proposed solutions and tools provide a blueprint for action, specifically re-designing systems in a way that works for all Ugandans.”

The research project was funded by the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda and The Hague Institute for Global Justice in the Netherlands. The project was carried out by HiiL in partnership with ACORD Uganda.
Adapted from an article originally published by HiiL on 14 April 2016.

  • justice
  • uganda