Speaking to URN this morning, Namubiru said little effort has been made to process and table the National Legal Aid policy. Civil society organisations have been advocating for a NLAP for several years. The policy would provide for free legal services for the poor and vulnerable.
Lack of political will is affecting the
introduction of a National Legal Aid policy (NLAP) in the country, according to
Sylvia Namubiru, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Service Providers
Speaking to URN this morning, Namubiru
said little effort has been made to process and table the National Legal Aid policy. Civil society organisations have
been advocating for a NLAP for several years. The policy seeks provision of free legal
services for the poor and vulnerable.
Legal aid extends beyond representation by a lawyer in a
court to include legal advice and assistance on both civil and criminal
matters. According to Namubiru, more than 80 percent of Ugandans cannot afford
In 2012, the first NLAP was drafted by private
members after government failed to draft one. Since then, the private members
have revised the draft as they consult with different organs of government.
Namubiru say that government has focused attention on issues
like infrastructure and less effort to this policy citing resources.
//Cue in: “The policy makers…”
Cue out: “…to defend you”//
The NLAP is being prepared by LASPNET and the
Greater North Parliamentary Forum led by the Gulu Municipality Member of
parliament, Lyandro Komakech with support from the Kaberamaido Woman Member of
Parliament, Veronica Eragu Bikyetero.
Namubiru says they have had to go back and
forth in drafting the policy to meet the demands of a private member’s bills.
She explains that a Private members bill should be neutral with very low cost
implications on government, something she says is difficult to achieve with the
The drafters have also had to revise the policy in search for
an institution to place it. All bills once approved should be implemented under
a government institution or agency.
A major hallmark for the policy is the proposal for the
establishment of an independent National Legal Aid Body (NLAB) to oversee the
roll-out and delivery of a comprehensive legal aid package across Uganda.
The legal aid body would have a governing board composed of
both state and non-state actors. This is one of the pending issues that
Namubiru, says they are working on to finalize the policy before presenting it
//Cue in; “A private member…”
Cue out…to a consensus.”//
Namubiru says that the journey to have the policy is still
ongoing. She says they are currently the policy and it should be presented to
parliament in about two months’ time.
She says they are still working with the office of the
Attorney General on the institution meant to implement the bill once enacted
and discussing the cost implications among others.
According to a cost benefit analysis assessment conducted by
LASPNET, the government would have to invest about 17 billion Shillings in Legal
Namubiru explains that this money is nothing compared to the
impact it would create. She notes that the policy would improve access to
justice through providing legal representation to Ugandans, reduce the number
of people in prisons who cannot afford legal costs and reduce case backlog