A team of Ugandan Lawyers has established an emergency fund aimed at helping their “struggling” colleagues in the legal profession as the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to bite hard, significantly clipping revenues and thereby undermining livelihood.
In a Press Statement released Thursday, the Lawyers, led by the Fund’s convener, Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, a fiery Public Interest and Human Rights defender and Executive Director of the Legal Brains Trust, say, it is imperative “to acknowledge and attend to the health, mental and economic tolls this crisis is having on the foot soldiers of our legal system.
” Many Lawyers are struggling during this time and have no one to run or turn to “
The move comes days after the Daily Monitor Newspaper published a story in which a young Lawyer identified as Mr Brian Bakampa, 35, was arrested and detained apparently after he tried to access State House Nakasero seeking an audience with President Yoweri Museveni to let on to him his financial challenges as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown.
“My work is drafting legal paperwork, and documents like company registry and that way, I am able to earn.
” Since the Covid-19 lockdown, I have not been earning anything and I have been broke. My rent is due for two months now, and I had run out of food.
” I sincerely needed help. But we live in a pretentious society where people like me – the educated – fear to come out in the open and state that they are actually down and they need help” Mr Bakampa is quoted as saying in the story.
According to the Statement, ” reports across membership forums confirm what we already knew – this
pandemic is hitting young lawyers the hardest”
As a matter of Government policy, Lawyers, are ineligible to receive assistance during this period since they are not considered as ” vulnerable” despite losing significantly in day to day business.
A “goodwill committee” chaired by Ms Assumpta Kemigisha of Ssebunya and Turyagyenda Advocates and comprising of other 10 members representing Uganda’s geographical regions will manage the emergency fund and undertake urgent fundraising efforts.
Adv. Isaac Ssemakadde and Adv. Assumpta Kemigisha – convener and Chair of the Fund respectively have made the first donations of One Million Uganda Shillings each.
” However, there are many others amongst us who have the money, time, and gifts as well as the courage and kindness to support this initiative” the Statement notes.
Cash contributions towards this effort will be ” centralised” for purposes of effective management and therefore will be received by the Chairperson of the Committee, Adv. Assumpta Kemigisha.
Under this arrangement, requests for help will be kept in confidence, the Statement says, and eligible members, who will only be required to present a Uganda Law Society ID and badge, shall not receive financial assistance in the excess of 500, 000 Uganda Shillings.
Beyond financial help, the lawyers will also receive other forms of help such as mental health support.