Originally, when I felt called to Uganda I was terrified. I kept asking God if Africa was really where he wanted me to go. After all, I am a woman who had never left her country before, going to a place where no one looks or sounds like me. Now that my time here is coming to a close I see His plan was for my good the entire time. I was the only intern from Regent going to Uganda and on the plane ride over I remember thinking, “wow I’m going to be alone”. However, God knew that I didn’t need anyone to come with me because he would bring the right people to me. I met amazing students from Pepperdine University and had incredible hosts at the DPP.
Throughout my time working with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions Uganda, I was able to work in many different departments including Anti-Corruption, International Crimes Division, and the Gender Based Crimes Division. I worked with remarkable lawyers on some unbelievable cases. I enjoyed being able to touch on different kinds of cases because it gave me a wide range of experience this summer.
During my time at anti-corruption, I worked on a case of embezzling government funds. It was a heartbreaking case involving a man around my own age named Samwell (name changed to preserve anonymity). Samwell stole millions of Ugandan shillings (approx. 30,000 USD) from the government in order to pay for members of his family to go to school. I have wanted to be a prosecutor my entire life; however, I was torn in this case because of the mitigating factors. This man was no Charles Ponzi; he was a desperate man wanting to help his family. Because of this, I spoke to the prosecutors on the case. Plea bargaining is relatively new here in Uganda due to the amazing efforts of Jim Gash and Pepperdine University, so I recommended giving Samwell a chance to work off the money he had stolen. The head of Anti-Corruption, Jane, asked me to present my proposal. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous in my life! After the proposal Jane said they would keep it in mind when prosecuting Samwell; he would still serve time but it would be less than what was originally sought. It may seem like a small feat to some, but I felt ecstatic about shaving even a few years off of Samwell’s sentence. Those are years he will be with his family, those are years he will get to be a father not a prisoner.
In the Gender Based Crimes Division I worked with cases including human trafficking and rape. I originally applied for this internship because I wanted to help fight against human trafficking, so I prepared myself for the tough cases involving children being killed for either sacrificial ceremonies or organ harvesting. However, the case I was least prepared for, the case that hit me the hardest during my time in this division, was one dealing with the rape of a young woman. Hope (name changed to preserve anonymity) was home alone on a Friday night as her roommates all went out to a party. She awoke around midnight to the sounds of intruders stealing her things. She tried to stop them but the men threatened to rape her and eventually did, even though she complied with their demands. Once the men were caught, they tried to bribe her into not testifying against them. During her initial statement, she was so broken and weak I was worried she would take the bribe. However, Hope was very brave and told them they had done her a great injustice and there would be no price that would fix it. I was proud of Hope, to see her fight against her attackers and stand up against corruption and injustice.
Because the cases in the International Crimes Division are of a more classified nature, I cannot speak much about the case I worked on there. However, I can say that the team at the DPP working to fight against terrorism is amazing. The case I worked on was high profile and it felt as though the entire country showed up to help fight against these attackers. We had three binders full of witness statements, investigative measures, and donated evidence. One thing was certain in my mind: the people have a zero tolerance for those wishing to attack Uganda.
On the whole, throughout my time here in Uganda I have learned and experienced so much. I have made lifelong memories in breathtaking places with great people. My host, Director Mike Chibita, is one of the most honorable men I have ever met in my life. He is truly a man after God’s own heart. I enjoyed immersing myself in the Ugandan culture and meeting all of the friendly and interesting people in the country. My first time in a new country was definitely a success and I cannot wait to visit again in the near future!