Democratic Governance Facility

Strengthening the Capacity of Local Council Courts in Uganda

The Democratic Governance Facility (“DGF”) is a development facility in Uganda bringing together the support of several countries – Austria, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Union – in the strengthening of democratization, human rights, access to justice and accountability in Uganda.  Since September 2013, ILI-ACLE has been in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Local Government (“MoLG”) and the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) with the support of DGF for the implementation of an extensive initiative aimed at strengthening access to justice in Uganda through building the capacity of its most accessible court structures – local council courts (“LCCs”) – in 45 districts across the country.

Mainstreaming justice in Uganda, through Magistrate courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, is simply inaccessible to the majority of Ugandan households, as it is very expensive (in terms of filing fees, legal representation, and transport costs), time consuming, cumbersome (as legal proceedings are complex and conducted in English), and confined to major towns and trading centers (whereas the rural poor lack requisite funds for transport). The LLCs provide the most direct avenue for the majority of Uganda’s population to access justice and seek protection of their rights, operating at the village (“LCC I”), parish (“LCC II”) and sub-county (“LCC III”) levels. Beyond their proximity to the people (physical access), LCC proceedings are generally conducted in the local language of the community (technical access), require minimal fees (financial access), remove some of legal formalities associated with the “mainstream” courts and apply customary law (psychological access). As a testament to their accessibility, it is estimated that approximately 80% of Ugandans use LCCs to resolve disputes. However, the effective operation of LCCs is hindered by the following key challenges:

  • Limited technical knowledge and skills of LCCs to effectively resolve disputes within their jurisdiction;
  • Lack of streamlined operations and management of LCCs, hindered by inadequate systems for monitoring of LCCs and their limited facilitation;
  • The need to harmonise political action and processes to further strengthen the perception of legitimacy of LCCs; and
  • Public confusion surrounding LCCs and lack of awareness amongst communities as to their role and responsibilities.

Between September 2013-October 2015, the MoLG, with the support of the JLOS and ILI-ACLE and  financial support from DGF, reestablished 639 LCC III across 45 districts; developed a comprehensive training curriculum covering human rights, judicial ethics, LCC administration and procedures, the rights of children, domestic violence, customary land and mediation; established a cadre of 903 MoLG Trainers with the capacity to train LCCs; and trained 1,125 LCC III members from 193 courts. Following an end-of-project evaluation, the project partners signed an 8-month extension under which the partners are consolidating the project’s interventions in the 45 target districts. By the end of June 2015, the project partners trained an additional 2,400 LCC III members from more than 430 courts—completing training of all LCC III in the 45 districts and assessing 93% of all MoLG Trainers—amongst its key achievements.

Pivotal to the success of project was the increased multi-stakeholder support from key JLOS institutions, including the Judiciary of Uganda. By the end of 2015, capacity building of LCCs was cited by the Chief Justice amongst the achievements and ongoing priorities for improved access to justice. The project gave rise to the creation and appointment of LCC Desk Officers, a direct reflection of MoLG’s commitment to LCCs beyond the initial project terms of reference. Furthermore, to ensure linkages with other justice sector institutions within districts, JLOS has arranged for LCC representatives to participate in the district-level District Coordination Committees to enable stakeholders to discuss sector-related issues for institutional support.

Building upon achievements in 45 districts, commencing July 2016, the partners will utilise existing MoLG trainers to strengthen the capacity of 150 LCCs/900 LCC members across 30 additional districts, extending the project scope from 45 to 75 districts. Future phases of the project envision the trickle-down training to the nearly 60,000 LC I and II courts country-wide, as well as interventions directed towards harmonising local and national level stakeholder support and strengthening public awareness of LCCs.

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

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