Overwhelmed Lwengo ‘exports’ prisoners to Masaka

To ease the congestion in its prisons, Lwengo district administration has resorted to sending prisoners to the neighbouring  Masaka district.

The problem, according to the Lwengo Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Harriet Nakamya stems from the judiciary’s failure to allocate magistrates to the district.

“Lwengo district has got three prisons which are too congested which means that we have to send other prisoners to Masaka, and at our cost. There is need for the judiciary to rethink their strategy and allocate a resident magistrate court so that cases can be expeditiously heard as this would reduce on the number of suspects on remand,” Nakamya said.

She was speaking at the launch the crowd funding software for Lwengo district under a legal aid project implemented by Legal Aid Service Providers’ Network (LASPNET) in partnership with Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) and FIDA-Uganda.

Crowd funding is an online fundraising software that allows collection of modest amounts of money from many people into a pool that realizes sufficient funding for a particular project or activity.

In this particular case, the collected funds will have a special account run by the Lwengo local government and will be used to top up the services rendered by lawyers as well as to be kept as a revolving fund for future legal service provision.

The Masaka resident Judge Winfred Nabisinde said at the moment, there is little her office can do to address the issue of case backlog.

“There are should be at least two High court judges, but, for the last five months, I am alone and I have a thousand files on my desk which I cannot [attend to] quickly but I promise the backlog will soon come to an end because I am trying my best to work day and night,” Nabisinde said.

Nabisinde welcomed the crowd funding project  that she called on residents to embrace as part of their own transformation in access to justice by helping the very poor in the community.

“It is high time we contribute to our own needs, this will increase responsibility and accountability in access to justice,” Nabisinde said.

 

Lady Justice Winfred Nabisinde speaking at the launch

She alluded to the Islamic faith where Muslims pay alms in the form of Zakat to help the needy; and also quoted the Bible in the Book of Proverbs 19:17 which states that: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,and he will repay him for his deed.”

She said that, although government has the responsibility to provide legal services to all citizens, the legal aid law was not yet in place hence the need for a tentative measure as a pathway for access to justice.

Lwengo district chairman George Mutabaazi applauded the Lwengo legal aid project partners for the initiative that had over the two years reduced pressure on the police, done away with brokers who were conning residents and shortened the long distances that many had had to travel to seek justice.

Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, the LASPNET executive director said that after successfully piloting the project in Lwengo, it is going to be rolled out to two other local governments.

The idea of crowd funding was born out of the need by partners to ensure that the Lwengo pilot project remains self-sustainable even after they have closed off support.