A section of Busoga sub-region population, particularly those who cannot afford to hire lawyers, now have a reason to keep their hope alive following an announcement by the Justice Centres Uganda (JCU) to resume offering free legal services after nearly one-year lull.
JCU is a project of Justice, Law and Order Sector that was established in 2009 to provide legal aid to the poor, marginalised and vulnerable people who cannot afford to hire services of lawyers.
According to a statement issued last week, the Jinja centre in Busoga sub-region is among the two branches that will be opened for business (provision of pro bono), thanks to the availability of funds.
Shortage of funds
The head of the national coordination office, Ms Christine Birabwa Nsubuga, in a statement dated March 13, said Jinja and Masaka centres, two of the three branches that were closed due to unavailability of funds since mid-last year, is now ready to take up new cases.
This means that dozens of stranded people, majority of whom are either poor or low income earners, will now get effective representation in courts of law, lack of which would have seen them badly disadvantaged in the face of injustice.
She said: “We will endevour to provide professional, free and quality legal services to those who cannot afford the services of a paid lawyer.”
In the past year alone JCU has been providing legal representation to more 5,920 clients in civil, criminal, land and family court cases.
It has also mediated slightly more than 1,170 cases and provided psycho-social support and counselling to more than 180 clients.
The justice institution has further reached out and sensitise nearly 700 women, 3,000 people with disabilities and 6,240 at police stations about legal rights and access to justice.
Nearly 20,000 inmates, about 35,000 students and 27,000 community members also benefitting from the exercise—lesson in legal rights and access to justice.
Before reinstating the pro bono services, clients benefiting from the justice centre petitioned the justice institution offices, calling for immediate resumption of free legal help. In the petition they said many of them are helpless in the face of injustice.
Mr Cornelius Lwamusayi, a resident of Katunda Village in Buikwe District, who was one of the petitioner, said without representation, many people lose hope even in pending cases that were already yielding some positive results.
In total there are seven centres, including Jinja High Court, Masaka, Lira, Hoima, Tororo, Mwengo and Fort Portal.
Due to lack of funding Masaka, Jinja and Fort Portal centres were closed until last week when two centres—in Jinja and Masaka High Court were reopened.