President's Message

Dear Learned Colleagues,
It is with great pleasure that I present to you the 2014 Uganda Law Society (ULS) Annual Report. The full report can be downloaded on our website and it demonstrates the value of membership to the ULS and provides accountability for the subscription fees that we receive from our valued members. You will find the accomplishments and the many ways in which our Partners; namely; The Norwegian Development Agency/Norwegian Bar Association (NORAD/NBA), Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Ford Foundation, USAID SAFE, MacArthur Foundation and Canadian Bar Association (CBA); have supported our efforts to touch many lives and impact communities by funding the various projects that we have executed over the last 12 months. Overall, it has been worthwhile working to promote the Rule of Law and to strengthen the Courts through our various endeavors such as extending a quality service to our less privileged communities, putting a spotlight on the criminal justice system and on child justice and protection mechanisms plus supporting our partners in the pursuit of justice as well as contributing to a robust policy and legal framework.
The year 2014 however presented one of the biggest challenges ever faced by the legal profession in the history of Uganda. The Judiciary continued to function without a substantive Chief Justice and a Deputy Chief Justice for nearly two years. This state of affairs tested the independence of the Judiciary and indeed the commitment of all Governmental and other institutions to
respect and observe the independence of the Judiciary.
Judiciary - There are a few things that will shape how we do our work inthe next few years and what achievements we will make
in the justice system. The Appointment of a Chief Justice provides hope that the Judiciary’s Constitutional mandate will be brought back on track and that the inefficiencies that bedevil the institution will be aggressively addressed. Case backlog in the Courts stands at 132,555, hence the need for the Judiciary to swing into action and implement the Performance Enhancement Project as a tool to maximize the performance of the institution. This calls for us as the Bar to work with the Judiciary to ensure that performance improves and case backlog tremendously reduces. We hope that our proposal to appoint Advocates as Temporary Judges will be carried through in the Constitutional Amendments that are being considered. Targets for judicial officers have been set. Magisterial Areas are expected to be increased from 39 to 89 and each district will have at least a Magistrate Grade I, while the number of Magistrate Grade is expected to be increased from 173 to 250, to take care of Magistrate Grade II, who are currently being phased out. High Court circuits will be increased from the current 13 to 18.
Alternative Dispute Resolution - Now that the Judicature (Mediation) Rules of 2013, which make mediation mandatory in all civil matters, have been rolled out we should look to seeing quick resolution of disputes while maintaining harmony in communities. It is plannedto establish of a fully-fledged High Court Division for Mediation in the Judiciary and harmonizing structures across JLOS institutions.
Plea Bargain - The Plea Bargain pilot project has registered some good success and we should build on this to deliver further improvements in the criminal justice system. The prosecution and the accused person enter into an agreement where the accused agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for a reduced sentence is also helping address issues of backlog. This requires more sensitization of inmates so that they embrace its workings and in turn help decongest prisons around the country.
National Legal Aid Law - If we are to fight poverty using the law, Government should prioritize provision of legal aid and take up its obligation as the principal actor in legal aid provision by committing a percentage of the GDP for legal aid services. This will ensure improved access to justice for all. A legal aid policy is proposed to cater to both criminal and civil matters to address the overwhelming need brought about by the increasing disputes especially related to land and family; and to provide for legal aid at the start of the administration of justice processes through to the enforcement of court judgements. The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs will expedite the process of enactment of the national policy and legislation on legal aid in Uganda.
The Financial Intelligence Authority - Compliance with money laundering obligations is going to be one of the greatest challenges for the legal profession. Advocates are accountable persons under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013 charged with some duties, namely; to undertake customer due diligence, maintain records about the true identity of a customer for at least ten years and pay
special attention to transactions that are complex with unusual sums of money and unusual patterns which have no apparent economic or lawful purpose and report suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Authority. The Finance Intelligence Authority will issue guidelines to accountable persons in relation to customer identification, record keeping, and reporting obligations.
A key area for Lawyers will be balancing the duty to keep the affairs of their clients’ confidential information and the circumstances in which they are able to disclose client communications which are strictly limited. The tension between an Advocate’s duty and the provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering Act should be ironed out from the onset.
Professional Indemnity Insurance - A good number of clients are now asking that we take out professional indemnity insurance to
cover us for our negligent actions and provide financial security. This also serves an important public interest function by ensuring that the client does not suffer loss, which might otherwise be uncompensated. This insurance does not come cheap and it ultimately leads to a huge overhead that has to be passed onto clients. The high premiums also will severely restrict the
ability of small new law firms to enter the market. Thus in future, we may have to think about taking out insurance as the Uganda Law Society on behalf of our members who contribute to a pool.

Our teams at the ULS Secretariat have done and continue to do a tremendous job in serving our members and ensuring to attend to members’ needs so that we continue to improve our ethical and professional standards. We remain committed to delivering high quality services to our members. The team has also delivered various projects with the support of our Partners to whom we are grateful. We also remain committed to our mandate, values as well as to our obligations agreed with our Partners under these projects.
I hope you will find our Annual Report both informative and that it will give you a greater understanding of the work that we have undertaken to achieve the rule of law and access to justice. More importantly, I hope that you will gain an appreciation of the documented calls for continued ULS intervention in our communities because the ULS has become part of the fabric of many peoples’ everyday life in this country.
For God and my country.

Ruth Sebatindira
President - Uganda Law Society

Upcoming Events

May 19
Developments in Uganda’s Constitutional Jurisprudence
The training is geared at appraising advocates on the trends and jurisprudence in constitutional matters, the current state of constitutionalism in Uganda as well as the proposed constitutional amendments and impact on constitutionalism in Uganda.
May 28
Financial Crime and Electronic Evidence
The seminar will explore national frameworks for e-commerce and fraud, electronic evidence handling, preservation and storage as well as e-discovery and digital forensics. The seminar will also highlight the role and mandate of the Financial Intelligence

Our Partners