PAKWACH: Action Aid Uganda in partnership with Pacego women club has resorted to using community drama to demonstrate how to access justice in the courts of law.
Pacego women club is a community-based organization which aims at championing women's right at the grass root level.
The drama illustrates the steps courts take to hear cases filed by plaintiffs without allegations of offering bribes to court officials.
While presiding over the moot court in Pacer over the weekend, Mr Mike Okonya, the chief magistrate of Pakwach magistrate’s court said the proceedings were intended to instill confidence in widows and orphans who are always oppressed because of their vulnerability.
"This is to demonstrate and send a strong message to all of you that you can win a case without being asked for any bribe," he said.
The decision to decentralize the legal clinic to villages stems from the rampant cases of land grabbing from widows and orphans after the death of family heads since they normally fail to get justice from cultural leaders and village chairpersons.
Okonya used the opportunity to educate the community on the relevance of filing a claim in court.
"As a court, before scheduling to hear your cases, we want the aggrieved to first go for mediation so as to successfully preserve the relationship between the two parties. Where the parties still disagree, we normally start hearing facts and disputes, and allow the plaintiff and the offenders to produce witnesses before court," Okonya explained.
He, however, warned witnesses against false testimonies in the courts of law, saying the implication is always serious.
Ms Matilda Natukunda, a legal adviser with Action Aid Nebbi and Pakwach said the moot court helps the poor who can't afford lawyers to be acquitted with concrete evidence during cross-examinations.
"Don't be telling the magistrate stories, speak about what you saw or heard. From today, let us all learn to adduce evidence and stop baseless allegations," Natukunda warned.
She revealed that allegations of witchcraft have become rampant during case hearing seasons yet they are hard to prove.
Ms Grace Apio, a widow with five children testified that she was chased from a piece of land after the death of her husband, adding that to date, she has never found justice due to the cultural barrier that women don't inherit and own land.
"I was approached and threatened with a panga knife in the garden by my late husband's brother. He ordered me to leave the land and go back with my children at my father's place. I reported the matter to the clan leaders and the village chairperson but they all sided with my late husband’s brother,” she said.
Apio said such sensitization should be done regularly so as to enlighten residents on the need to abide by the law.
Mr Paulino Onen, the chairperson Pacego clan land committee said the moot court has supplemented the initiatives already in places like capacity building for clan leaders to remain neutral by balancing cultural barriers and the constitution of Uganda.
The court shall be extended to the villages of Padoch and Pakia, all in Panyango sub-county with the aim of advocating for trust in courts when it comes to handling different community disputes with substantial evidence.