Posted by: Nicole | July 9, 2009

Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda

Last week Dean Ken Starr of the Law School came to visit the students working in Uganda.  On Friday we attended the First Annual Distinguished Speaker Series that was sponsored by the judiciary of Uganda and Pepperdine University.  Dean Starr was the keynote speaker and gave a wonderful lecture on the importance of the rule of law for Uganda and the United States.

Last weekend Dean Starr invited us to travel with him to Northern Uganda to visit the internally displaced persons camps and to participate in a training on peace and reconciliation in Northern Uganda that was held by the Ugandan NGO called Peace and Reconciliation Ministries of Africa (PREMA) and sponsored by Advocates International.  After a long drive on Saturday morning, we arrived at an internally displaced person camp in Gulu, Uganda.  We had the opportunity to walk around and talk with the elders of the camp about their lives at the camp and then a chance to interact with the children living in the camp.  Of all of the children I have seen in different villages in Uganda and around Kampala, the children in this camp had by far the most health problems and poorest conditions.  Despite all of this, the children still showed tremendous excitement about our visit and were eager to show us around their home.

Me with Children at an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Gulu, Uganda

Me with Children at an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Gulu, Uganda

After leaving the camp we headed to Lira, where we went to the PREMA headquarters and received a very warm welcome that included some local dancing, singing, and music.  We had an opportunity to learn about PREMA’s mission: “Building a Culture of Peace Across Africa and Beyond,” the work they have been doing in Northern Uganda, and the plans to expand their work and facilities.  Later in the evening we attended a radio station interview where Dean Starr, my fellow students, and I discussed the work we have been doing in Uganda.

On Sunday we attended a PREMA training session. The training sessions are intended to teach local community leaders alternative dispute resolution techniques to help to solve conflicts within the community.  There are two major issues that cause conflict in Northern Uganda: land disputes and domestic relations.  The focus of the training session we attended was on peace and reconciliation with respect to domestic relations disputes.  This is a particularly large issue in Northern Uganda where women are often treated poorly and have few rights, in comparison to their counterparts in Southern Uganda.  The training session aimed at bringing awareness to the local community leaders about the domestic relations issues in Northern Uganda and then discussed techniques for the community leaders to use in order to help people solve these disputes outside of the court process.  Overall it was a very interesting weekend.

In other news, it was reported in the newspaper today that the Judiciary has requested that parliament allow for 12 new judges to be appointed.  The article suggested that this would help to reduce the backlog, although a larger number is needed because it appears that the 12 that are being asked for are to fill the two vacancies on the Supreme Court (which means the Supreme Court is currently unable to hear any constitutional cases or election petition because they do not have the constitutional required quorum of 7) and the 10 vacancies in the Court of Appeals and judges are most needed at the High Court (trial court) level.  According to the article, the current case backlog is at 95,000 cases (that is the first number I have seen actually stating how many cases are waiting to be heard).  To put that in perspective there are currently at most 340 judges and magistrates in all of Uganda (about 40 judges and between 250 and 300 magistrates), which means that each of them has to process around 280 cases this year to get rid of the backlog, assuming no new cases arise.  Hopefully additional requests for High Court judges will be made in the near future.

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Responses

  1. Nicole, I am so pleased that you got to see so much of the country. Love your blog!

    • fantastic, i would like to go there one day, and visit the children i sponser.


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