Mr. Mark Namuyimba
A community Paralegal shares his experience in promoting equal rights for the poor

I am Mark Namuyimba, a Community Paralegal working with Community Legal Action and Integrated Development (COLAID).

I love saving others from tragedy. In situations where people are not treated as equals; discrimination amongst communities and in scenarios where poor families suffer discrimination among others. Legal aid balances the scale and it gives them a chance for a better life. Through my work as a paralegal poor families see equal opportunities through my legal aid work. Denying families their legal rights is deplorable.
People should be equal regardless of their tribe, political opinion, religion, social or economic status. My passion is to see a country where there is freedom of speech, tolerance for difference, fair labour, equal economic rights where all feel safe including the poor not just being theoretical. Literacy levels are high with Universal Primary and Secondary Education. However, with low completion of children from poor families, they do not attain pertinent skills such as problem-solving. They cannot solve these difficulties in adult family life. I, who possesses such skills and have passion for vulnerable families feels I must help. Because I’m a Paralegal and Delegate from Community Legal Action and Integrated Development (COLAID)

Karyn having a meeting with Muslim Clerics and Mediation team from MCJL
Widow secures share from the late husband’s through intervention of Muslim Center for Justice and Law (MCJL)

I am Sumayiya Nansubuga an Advocate of the High Court working with Muslim Centre for Justice and Law (MCJL), very passionate about helping the indigent clientsI have spent over 7 years supporting the vulnerable communities and individuals mostly women and girls to access justice

My experience working in the Family Justice System, has enabled me discover that women and children especially girls are the most victims of family problems compared to men.

At MCJL, we handled a client identified as Karyn (Pseudo name) who is a widow aged 33 years and a resident of Nateete, Kampala district. Karyn lost her husband, a prominent Muslim cleric in 2010. He left three (3) wives and three (3) children. He also left a big estate which was distributed under shariah law. However, Karyn was dissatisfied with the distribution claiming that some of the properties distributed did not wholly belong to the deceased since she made a contribution to towards their acquisition.

The appointed guardians of the children had also denied her visitation rights to her children. The family members were also claiming that Karyn was not a widow of the deceased since they had separated at the time of the deceased’s death.

The estate had been distributed in her absence since she was working abroad by the time of the death of her husband. MCJL intervened and held various meetings with the Muslim clerics, family members and guardians who were involved in the distribution of the late’s estate. Parties were sensitized on the law of succession in comparison with Sharia law. Mediation was held and the family members acknowledged the client as a widow and through a memorandum, the widows were all given and informed of their rightful share.

As a result, Karyn was re-instated in her home in Rubaga and she also gained visitation rights to the children when they get holidays. All parties inclusive of Muslim clerics who attended the mediation also acquired knowledge on the succession law both under Shariah and the Statutes.
Achieving such an important milestone in our Family Justice System is so amazing and encouraging! Unfortunately, when you put on a microscope and zoom into the future of the Legal Aid in Uganda, it is wantonly saddening our hearts. With this deliberate shrinking space in which CSOs are operating, the indigents will barely get legal aid services. The closing of DGF which was providing support to CSOs to reach out to vulnerable families and the government’s continued refusal to pass the Legal Aid Bill, impacts negatively to the access to legal aid services and hence communities subjected to issues of Access to Justice.
Therefore, to bring hope amongst communities and CSOs, more funding is needed to facilitate organizations that are working closely with vulnerable communities especially in a bid to uphold human rights and Access to Justice through providing legal aid services. And also, the government of Uganda through the parliament to speed up the passing of the National Legal Aid Bill

COLAID unites a divided family over land dispute

Our offices at Community Legal Action and Integrated Development (COLAID) were approached by estranged family members whose troubles started when one of their relatives gifted twenty acres of land to her son and she affirmed this at Mpigi Land Registrars’ office

The son then registered this land in his names as a new landowner and contracted a surveyor to affirm boundaries. However, his cousins had for long enough stayed on his mother’s land later alone making it their ancestral burial ground. They therefore through the surveyor’s reference document discovered that the ownership had changed and hence they started to threaten violence.
It’s at this point that COLAID called all the interested parties and agreed with them to halt the surveying until the matter is amicably resolved. However, the situation escalated when the mother fell sick and the son who owned land lost his job as a mechanic in the same period. This entirely left his (son’s) wife as the bread winner yet she could not manage the situation. The family decided to sell off this land to treat the mother and also create employment for the son. This caused more trouble in the family since selling of this land could lead to the destruction of the burial grounds which was against the will of other family members.
Fortunately, Lawyer Paul Kavuma, also the Executive Director of COLAID using the Family Justice Practice Catalogue advised the family members to agree to resolve the impending dispute through mediation.  Amidst high tensions engulfed by an emotionally charged atmosphere, the family members convened at in Maganjo at COLAID offices for the mediation.
The mediation started off by the Lawyers examining the genesis of the land dispute. Arising out of the mediation, it was agreed that the land be divided into two; the son’s share leaving a reserve for the burial grounds. The decision was welcomed and left everyone (party) satisfied. As a role model, I work to save vulnerable families from such deplorable family problems and my work has even been made sampler since I am able to draw references and best practices from the Family Justice Catalogue.
I wish to add that we should consider giving legal aid services as an answer to the vulnerable families undergoing through disputes. However, since majority of the legal aid service providers rely on donor funding, at times this is unsustainable leaving Family Justice Practitioners working with little or no pay. Realistically low pay is low morale. Even the sun sets in paradise. Family justice practitioners cannot work just for Passion 

Jolly in a meeting with LC 1 leaders and the mediation team

Sumayiyah shares a story on how one of their clients identified as Jolly (Pseudo name) who is an elderly woman aged 60 years and separated from her husband

According to Jolly, she purchased a kibanja in Mpunga village, Wakiso district in 1999. However, her husband introduced himself as the kibanja owner to the land owner. The landowner wrote an agreement confirming that Jolly’s husband was the owner of the kibanja. Without her consent, the husband sold part of her kibanja and the new owner destroyed Jolly’s crops. She reported the matter at the Police and RDC’s office and despite the various interventions, she was not helped. The husband was in the process of selling the remaining part of her kibanja and in the process Jolly decided to seek legal services from Muslim Centre for Justice and Law (MCJL).

The husband was invited for mediation at the office but later requested that the meditation is held at locus so that the area authorities who had ever been in the matter also attend. MCJL held about three (3) mediations and it was established that though Jolly presented a sale agreement, both parties had contributed towards the purchase. At this point the husband claimed that he gave Jolly money which she used to purchase the kibanja as thus he was entitled to the share. He further claimed that he was forced to sell part of the kibanja because Jolly and her children had continuously disrespected him and thus sold it to enable him settle in another place.
The parties agreed that the remaining Kibanja is divided. Jolly took the plot near the main road where she intends to construct rentals. The registered success from this mediation is that Jolly now has a plot in her names free from any claims and she is ready to commence construction of rentals. She is grateful to have secured a plot in her names and possession


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published.