SoL Gives Back to Community as they Celebrate 50 Years

The School of Law through its legal aid arm, the Public Interest Law clinic on September 14th 2018 at Freedom Square Makerere University offered free Legal services to a number of people that may not afford the services of the commercial lawyers.

The pro bono day was one of the activities organized to commemorate 50 years of the School of Law Makerere University, under the theme; Celebrating 50 years of Existence as We Build for the Future.       

The event attracted a number of other organizations offering free legal services under their umbrella body, The Legal Aid Service Provider’s Network (LASPNET).  They included Uganda Law Society, Justice Centres Uganda, Justice, Law and Order Sector, War Child Canada, FIDA Uganda, Muslim Centre for Justice and Law among others.

The President Uganda Law Society Mr. Kinobe Enock in his remarks during their time as undergraduates, law students were passionate about issues of Human rights and Constitutionalism.  He urged law students to take seriously issues of Rule of Law and giving back to society is they are to give meaningful service to society. 

‘We need to give back to society, more especially the poor. I am glad that the School of Law established the Public Interest Law Clinic because students then are able to file cases that influence policy” he said in his remarks as the chief guest at the event.  

Kinobe congratulated the School of Law for the 50-year achievements as exhibited partly in the free legal aid services that are offered daily at the legal aid unit of the School of Law and urged the public to utilize the opportunity before them.    

The Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang, while welcoming all the participants to Makerere University commended the Development Partners, who have been very instrumental in supporting various projects around the University particularly the Democratic Governance Facility support to the school of Law.

He applauded the Public Lecture and Pro-bono subcommittee of the school’s celebrations that spearheaded the arrangements for the event that benefited a big number of people who turned up to receive legal services. “It is the objective Makerere University to train our students to innovate solutions for local challenges. In the sphere of law access to justice still remains a challenge for the ordinary Ugandan. I would like to commend the school of law for innovations like this one that link the University to the people by providing tailored solutions” he said.

The Principal School of Law Dr, Christopher Mbazira commended all organizations that came together to commemorate the 50-year achievement by giving back to community.  He said the School of Law has all reasons to celebrate because it has contributed greatly to the Legal profession in all areas both locally and internationally.

The Law program in Makerere University was opened up to students 1968 and the first lot graduated in 1971, then under the Faculty of Social Sciences.  In 1970 it became a fully-fledged faculty and later in 2012 attained a College status under The Management of Constituent Colleges of Makerere University Statute.

The school of law offers three programs namely, LL. B, LL.M and LL. D and has served as a center of excellence in legal academics in the region thereby contributing to the human resource in the legal sector both within and outside Uganda. The student population has also significantly grown from 17 graduating students in 1971 to over 1500 todate.

The School of Law in 2012 established the Public Interest Law Clinic as a premier University based law clinic in Uganda as a means of transforming the training of lawyers in Makerere in order to produce the type of lawyer that is alive to the social justice needs of the vulnerable and indigent sections of society. With the clinic, the school of law has attracted various partners who have equally had into the training of lawyers. Key among them is the Legal Aid Service Provider’s Network. (LASPNET).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

PILAC’s vision is to promote a legal profession that is alive to the social justice needs of the vulnerable. It achieves this through its mission of promoting social justice through legal education, research, legal aid, public interest litigation and building strategic partnerships. 

PILAC is fully registered as a legal aid service provider with the Uganda Law Council and are working with other Universities accredited to teach law to support them in strengthening their clinical programmes, drawing from the lessons learnt from the six years of operation. 

Since its inception 500 law students have benefited from the Clinic activities that among others include: community outreaches, prison outreaches, learning workshops, legal representation under the supervision of Advocates, mediations, research, counselling and interviewing and internships. The clinic has been able to register over 80 cases, and it has reached over 2000 community members in Kikoni, Katanga, Kikubamutwe, Kivulu and Mubende and Lwengo districts. 

While the Clinic has been able to reach out to the communities around the University, we are cognizant that more needs to be done to address the access to justice demands of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized. One shortcoming though is that absence of a legal aid legal and policy framework. The School of Law through PILAC has partnered with Legal Aid Service Provider’s Network to push for the enactment of the Legal Aid Policy and Bill. In Celebrating 50 years of success and building for the future we add our voice to the demand for government to fulfill its obligations under the international instruments and the Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 16 by enacting the Legal Aid Policy and bill.