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Update from CGJ Fellow Chelsea Mack in Uganda

Chelsea is part of the Center for Global Justice Fellowship Program. Through this program, Regent Law graduates will be employed for one year with one of the Center’s partner organizations. Chelsea began her fellowship program in September 2017 with the Uganda Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the equivalent of the United States Attorney General. Chelsea assists the DPP in prosecuting cases of child sacrifice, thinking about how to create a juvenile division, and reviewing the relatively new plea bargaining initiative, which has been directly responsible for ensuring that children do not languish in prison beyond the terms of their sentences. Below is an update from Chesea from Uganda:

Work is challenging and exciting, and a bit overwhelming, all at once. My commute is still pretty awful (some nights it takes two hours to get home, if not a few minutes more!) but I am trying to find things to listen to during my rides to help occupy the time.

One interesting note about work is that all of the prosecutors of the DPP office across the country are on strike. They are demanding higher salaries and are very serious about their actions. This is the third week of the strike and there is hope that it will be resolved soon. How does the strike affect my daily work? Well, many of the attorneys are not in the office. The top management still comes to the office just to ensure that the institution continues running. Since I work in the DPP headquarters with the top management, I am still able to interact with them each day. Although they are in the office, no one goes to court to handle cases. Therefore, there are no criminal matters, of any level, being handled in any court throughout Uganda. This may not resonate too much with you, but just imagine if you had a relative or close friend who was arrested and accused of stealing a phone. Typically, that type of case (at least in the U.S.), may be handled within a day or two of the crime being committed. With this strike taking place, that relative or close friend has now been waiting in a city jail for three weeks for their matter to be brought in front of a judge. This strike could have some serious implications, but the hope and prayer is that a peaceful and satisfactory agreement will be made quickly.

Much of my time has been filled with meeting many of the attorneys and staff in the office. I’m quickly bonding with many of the police officers and bodyguards which would seem odd, but they are so friendly and accommodating. They usually help me with lunch suggestions and figuring out how to get around to different parts of Kampala by taxis or bodas.

Peter, from KCM, recently presented on witchcraft at a U.N. session in Geneva. When we reconnected after his trip, we began creating a timeline for the work that we want to accomplish over the next year. In the last week, I have read through different documents with graphic pictures and descriptions and held discussions about topics that are really not the most uplifting. It’s still hard to grasp everything I read, see and learn, but thankfully, my mind does not dwell on the details too much once I leave work.

One of the bright moments of going out to work at KCM’s campus is meeting the students at their school. A couple of the kindergarten students seem to remember me whenever I show up (probably due to my accent and lighter complexion) and invite me (or rather, drag me across the campus usually while running in the hot sun) to explore the campus with them.

These are wonderful breaks from the court visits and computer staring that I am consumed with each day. I think it’s a beautiful reminder that this young population is the primary group that we are working to protect.

There are still many aspects of life in Uganda that I am adjusting to, but I am pushing through and soaking in every minute!

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