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Center Intern Update: Chelsea Mack

The following is a personal summer intern update from Chelsea Mack, who is interning with Land and Equity Movement, Uganda, a movement which aims to unite the efforts of everyone with a contribution to offer to make land work for the poor.

The Human Rights Centre Uganda Session
Hello from Kampala, Uganda!  I am completing an internship this summer with the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU).  LEMU focuses on establishing and protecting land rights for individuals.  The organization acts as a liaison between communities and the Government and policymakers to communicate what laws exist and what laws need to be enacted to better protect land rights.

LEMU deals primarily with the problem of land grabbing, which is defined simply as the illegal taking of another’s land. Likely victims of land grabbing include orphans, widows, the elderly, and the poor.  Men who are able to use physical force to protect their land are those who triumph in these situations.  These men run the weak and poor off their land through means of violence, witchcraft, crop destruction, and other means.  This is where LEMU comes in, stepping in as an advocate for these victims to protect their land rights. 
Hotel Africana

The organization strives to protect these rights through the customary tenure system, which is a means of promoting and supporting the clan and community structures.  The objective is to build the clans’ capacity to handle land disputes between themselves, rather than the parties of a case going to the state courts.  The clans know the history of the land of their members and are capable of clarifying confusion over the land rights.

My first week of the internship was spent reading LEMU’s policy briefs, presentations, and other documents to get acquainted with their work.  The majority of my work right now is consisting of completing a report that LEMU began a few years ago that explains the organization’s work and research results.  During my second week, I traveled with my supervisor to Lira (northern Uganda) and Soroti (eastern Uganda) for a workshop.  LEMU is one of nineteen partner organizations of a group, TECLARA, that is focused on land grabbing issues in the Teso region (eastern Uganda).  TECLARA convenes for occasional workshops to discuss the work that they want to accomplish as individual organizations and as a whole body.  The objective of the meeting was to create a 6-month/1-year work plan for the organizations to carry out and allow the organizations to share their current and future capabilities to complete the work.

Working at the National CSO Fair
This past week I attended the National CSO (Civil Society Organization) Fair with a coworker on behalf of LEMU.  The two-day event was held at Hotel Africana, a popular location for conventions and important events in Kampala.   The Fair shared similarities with a professional business fair in the US, except for the song and dance performances throughout the first day.  During the fair, individuals and members of the NGOs walked around to the booths to inquire about the work of each NGO.  I am grateful for the opportunity to attend because I was pushed to know enough about LEMU’s work to inform the individuals and answer questions.  There were many NGOs present and their work covered a plethora of concepts including HIV/AIDS awareness, ending child marriage, youth empowerment, women and girls’ health, land rights, and women empowerment, among other things.

Visiting a Craft Village
I was also able to attend a session at the Fair that was hosted by the Uganda Human Rights Centre.  The discussion was about the protection and promotion of human rights being the propeller for sustainable development.  The panelists included an Advisor from the Justice Law and Order Sector Secretariat, the Executive Director from the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and the Commissioner of Human Rights of the legal department of the Uganda Police.  They commented on ways to reduce the corruption taking place in the country, gender issues, youth empowerment, and the need for cooperation between the police and NGOs/CSOs.

Uganda is a beautiful country (land and people included) that I am blessed to be able to experience!