Public Interest Litigation And The Provision Of Legal Aid Services To Indigenous Communities: The Case Of The Batwa In Bundibugyo

TitlePublic Interest Litigation And The Provision Of Legal Aid Services To Indigenous Communities: The Case Of The Batwa In Bundibugyo
Publication TypePaper
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsNgabirano, D
Number of Volumes
Date Published01/2014
KeywordsBatwa, Bundibugyo, Indigenous communities, Legal Aid, Litigation, PILAC, Uganda

Indigenous communities all over the world have suffered from decades of injustice. The Batwa populations in the South and Western parts of Uganda are one of such communities that continue to suffer. In the early 1990’s and 2000’s their resource rich ancestral lands were converted into forest and wildlife conservation areas without their consent.

To this day, they have never been compensated and neither has the government provided them with a resettlement plan. Estimated to be about 6000 in the last census, the Batwa face an eminent threat of extinction. The Batwa community in Bundibugyo is even smaller and presently stands at 97. Soon after eviction, they were resettled on
one small piece of land and do not have sufficient space for cultivation and engaging in other productive activities. For the most part they have been reduced to begging and offering cheap labour to sustain their families.

Their culture and language has also greatly diminished through forceful assimilation to those of dominant neighbouring communities. The Batwa in Bundibugyo district are also victims of negative stereo typing and face discrimination in all spheres of life including in health and educational facilities as well as in the justice system.

It is submitted that access to justice is fundamental for the re-empowerment of this community. However in their present status this greatly depends on access to legal aid services. Unfortunately traditional legal aid approaches rotate around support to individual cases and may not be effective. In the case of the Batwa they rarely interact with the formal justice system and they are all collectively affected by the status of affairs.

Against this reality, there is need for reconstruction of traditional legal aid service provision to include support to public interest litigation which is proving to be a more effective way of reclaiming the rights of indigenous populations on the African continent. Such a step will not only re-empower the Batwa but will form a basis for realisation of the rights of indigenous populations where ever they exist in Uganda.

Citation Key100