Over 150 Ugandans seek for affordable legal services daily because they can not afford to hire legal services of a private lawyer due to poverty.
Several reports indicate that only about 16% of the entire population has access to full-time legal representation by lawyers, which means that about 84% of the population in Uganda does not have adequate access to lawyers, suggesting that they have to rely on other forms of assistance.
Now Uganda Law Society (ULS), an association of lawyers charged with ensuring high levels of professionalism among lawyers in Uganda has launched a mobile application where by users can log in and get connected to a trusted lawyer at no cost.
This was launched during the 9th annual Pro bono celebrations that happened yesterday at the Railway grounds.
The event started with a match from the high court to the Railway grounds. Speaking at the event, Phiona Nabassa the Vice President of the ULS said that Pro Bono is a responsibility of all lawyers to help the public have access to justice.
She added that Pro Bono services have existed for many years but the day was only being celebrated for the 9th time.
“We are making history, We have provided legal services for 7000 people in Uganda. We have almost 3000 advocates and we have over 1500 registered lawyers to offer Pro bono services,” She said in part.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah who was the guest speaker launched the Pulidawo App (literally meaning ‘Your Pleader’) which will help the vulnerable people to access justice at no cost.
The user is expected to have a smartphone, a Facebook account or a Gmail account.
Oulanyah applauded the lawyers for the great innovation but also tasked them to make it accessible on the USSD codes as many vulnerable people can not have access to a smartphone.
He called upon the state to speed up on the Justice Aid policy which will make it easier for people to access justice.
“It is the responsibility of the state to activate issues of access to justice not just to leave it as a death letter in the constitution but to have it activated in actual services,” He said in part.
The event was well attended by the Head of delegation of the European Union, Court of Appeal’s Justice Remmy Kasule, UN Women Country representative Dr Maxime Wainato among other dignitaries.
Justice Remmy Kasule called upon the public to available themselves to services of the lawyers.
According to TED Ssempebwa, an advocate with Katende Ssempebwa and Company Advocates, courts are only open to about 17% to 20% of the total population.
“Courts are only open to between 17% and 20% of the population and if even when cases start, very few people follow them up to the end. 8% of the people have found other means,”
He says that as their firm (Katende Ssempebwa and Company Advocates) made 50 years, there was no better way to do that than to partner with ULS to offer free legal services.
He called upon government to make legs services affordable through the legal aid policy.