Ssemakadde: People Don’t Need Lawyers But Justice


For a guest lecture organized by the Clinical Legal Education (CLE) department of Makerere University on Friday 8th October, the department was privileged to host reknown human rights lawyer, Isaac Ssemakadde to discuss ‘’The role of an Advocate in promoting social justice and transforming society.’’

Centralizing his discussion around the question of the extent to which lawyers are original actors in the business of social change, Mr. Ssemakadde’s main assertion was that up to this day, lawyers in the post colony that is Uganda have been trained, conditioned and robotically programmed as allies of the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation.

He opines that lawyers by their training and practice are unconcerned with social justice and social change which has now been left to social activists – something he attributes to the mode of teaching the law in Uganda.

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‘’The law as taught in Makerere [University] and elsewhere in the post colony is harmful as it overshadows justice. They don’t teach justice at law school, they teach law’’ the erudite lawyer, who studied law at Makerere University said.

He describes the legal industry in the post colony as ” ill suited, ill prepared, ill equipped, ill financed and unfit entirely for the purpose of advocating for social change or transformation of society” given that advocates, judges and law students are essentially allies of the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation-forces that dominate the status quo.

The distinguished lawyer asserts that the dilemma of the post-colonial lawyer is that they have been taught that their role in a post-colonial society isn’t to change the rules of the game but rather ‘meekly assist’ in maintaining the rules and help resolve conflict through those rules.

Working for Justice in Uganda is perhaps the closest thing to martyrdom, he adds.

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Lawyers can’t change the direction of society too far from what their colleagues like and enforce nor too far from the beliefs of those in power given that the legal profession itself is ‘a state backed cartel against citizens.

The state created lawyers to make justice unattainable and difficult to achieve, Mr. Ssemakadde opines in this regard.

Isaac Ssemakadde, famous for his initiative, the Legal Brains Trust, a non-profit organization seeking to establish the rule of law while ensuring equal and equitable access to justice advises lawyers who desire to cause societal change to be ready to step out of their roles as lawyers and become social activists.

Citing that people don’t need lawyers but justice, he opines that lawyers are non-essential by design but only helpful by accident or by purpose as they merely put into writing the new thought process of activists.

Counsel Isaac Ssemakadde has successfully represented major social activists such as Dr. Stella Nyanzi in charges regarding cyber harassment and offensive communication against the president, among others.

He was crowned most outstanding public interest litigation lawyer by the Uganda Law Society in 2018.

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Owach Rita is a law student at Makerere University and Staff writer at The Legal Reports.

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