Last edited: May 2005
Summary and Analysis
Uganda signed the CRC on August 17, 1990 and ratified it on September 16, 1990. Uganda signed the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on February 16, 1992. Uganda submitted its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on June 17, 1996. It submitted its second report on August 2, 2003; however, this report does not appear on the UN Treaty Database. The third report was due on September 15, 2002, but it has not yet been submitted.
Uganda adopted The Children Act, Chapter 59 of the Laws of Uganda on August 1, 1997. Under this Act, Local Councils (LCs) are responsible for child protection. (§ 10) If these local government councils cannot resolve a child protection case, it is brought before the family and children court. (§ 13) Section 16 provides that “the child shall have a right to legal representation” in all matters before the family and children court. The Act does not provide any additional information about the responsibilities or duties of the legal representative for the child, nor has the family and children court been funded by the government. The Law Development Centre's Legal Aid Clinic represents children in a variety of cases, but its primary focus is on representing children in conflict with the law. Representing children who have been abused or neglected is primarily the responsibility of the state, which would prosecute these cases as criminal proceedings. Thus it seems that most child abuse and neglect cases are handled through the criminal system, whereas most civil family law cases concern maintenance and custody proceedings.
There are two key issues Uganda faces in implementing the provisions in The Children Act, specifically Section 16. First, Uganda does not have the institutions or financial resources to fully implement the provisions in the Act. In its own initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child it reports: “In the case of child abuse for instance, the Probation Officer in the present circumstances cannot do much. The officer has no ready place to take the child. Existing children's institutions are inadequate, formal fostering is still not developed owing to cultural and economic limitations. The greater problem is that Probation and Welfare Officers have no resources, they are few and therefore cannot adequately solve the problems of the child's family and those of the child.” Moreover, three of the five concerns mentioned in the NGO report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also concern a lack of funding and other resources. Second, customary law is a powerful force in Uganda and at times it conflicts with certain provisions of the CRC. The extended family acting as a support network and the emphasis on village resolution through the LC's are two common elements of customary law in Uganda. Both of these factors could prohibit particularly complex or difficult cases being referred to the family and children court, instead of being resolved by the LC's. However, it is important to note that there has been extensive training of the LC's on children's rights to legal protection by both the Ugandan government and various NGOs.
Sources of Law
Laws of Uganda 2000, Chapter 59: The Children Act, § 16 (Procedure in family and children court)
(1) The procedure of the family and children court in all matters shall be in accordance with the rules of court made by the Rules Committee for the purpose, but subject to the following--
(a) the court shall sit as often as necessary;
(b) proceedings shall be held in camera;
(c) proceedings shall be as informal as possible any by inquiry rather than by exposing the child to adversarial procedures;
(d) parents or guardians of the child shall be present whenever possible;
(e) the child shall have a right to legal representation;
(f) the right to appeal shall be explained to the child.
(2) Apart from members and officers of the court, only the following persons may at the discretion of the court attend any sitting of a family and children court--
(a) parties to the case before the court, their advocates, witnesses and other persons directly concerned in the case;
(b) parents or guardians of the child before the court;
(c) a probation and social welfare officer; and
(d) any other person whom the court authorises to be present.
Laws of Uganda 2000, Chapter 59: The Children Act, § 10 (Local councils to safeguard children and promote reconciliation between parents and children)
(1) It is the general duty of every local government council from the village to the district level
(a) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within its area; and
(b) to designate one of its members to be the person responsible for the welfare of children; and this person shall be referred to as the secretary for children's affairs.
(2) The secretary for children's affairs shall, in the exercise of his or her functions in relation to the welfare of children, be assisted by such officers of the local government council as the local government council may determine.
(3) In particular, every local government council shall mediate in any situation where the rights of a child are infringed and especially with regard to the protection of a child, the child's right to succeed to the property of his or her parents and all the rights accorded to a child in section 5.
(4) The power given to the local government council to protect the property of a child shall not include any powers of distribution of the property by the local government council.
(5) A local government council shall keep a register of disabled children within its area of jurisdiction and give assistance to them whenever possible in order to enable those children to grow up with dignity among other children and to develop their potential and self-reliance.
(6) Each local government council shall provide assistance and accommodation for any child in need within its area of jurisdiction who appears to the committee to require assistance and accommodation as a result of his or her having been lost or abandoned or seeking refuge.
(7) Each local government council shall make every effort, including publication through the mass media, to trace the parents or guardians of any lost or abandoned child or to return the child to the place where he or she ordinarily resides; and where the committee does not succeed, it shall refer the matter to a probation and social welfare officer or to the police.
Laws of Uganda 2000, Chapter 59: The Children Act, § 11 (Duty to report infringement of child's rights)
(1) Any member of the community who has evidence that a child's rights are being infringed or that a parent, a guardian or any person having custody of a child is able to but refuses or neglects to provide the child with
adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care or education shall report the matter to the local government council of the area.
(2) The secretary for children's affairs may, upon receiving the report, summon the person against whom the report was made under subsection (1) to discuss the matter; and a decision shall be made by the secretary for children's affairs in the best interests of the child.
(3) Where the person against whom the report was made refuses to comply with the decision made under subsection (2), the secretary of children's affairs shall refer the matter to the village executive committee court which shall adjudicate the matter and may
(a) give any relief or order allowed by the law; and
(b) in the case of a parent, in addition to the reliefs or orders given under paragraph (a), order the parent to execute a bond to exercise proper care and guardianship by signing an undertaking to provide the child with any or all of the requirements of the child.
Laws of Uganda 2000, Chapter 59: The Children Act, § 13 (Establishment of family and children court)
(1) There shall be a court to be known as the family and children court in every district, and any other lower government unit designated by the Chief Justice by notice in the Gazette.
(2) A magistrate not below the grade of magistrate grade II shall be assigned to preside over the family and children court.
Laws of Uganda 2000, Chapter 59: The Children Act, § 14 (Jurisdiction of family and children court)
(1) A family and children court shall have power to hear and determine—
(a) criminal charges against a child subject to sections 93 and 94; and
(b) applications relating to child care and protection.
(2) The court shall also exercise any other jurisdiction conferred on it by this or any other written law.
Local Contact Information
Law Development Centre's Legal Aid Clinic
Tel: 246 71 192951
The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA – Uganda)
Plot 54, Bukoto Street
Additional Resources and Links
Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society
Ugandan Child Rights NGO Network
The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA – Uganda)
African Network for Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)
Uganda Foster Care and Adoption Association
 It is unclear what force of law, if any the CRC carries in Uganda.
 Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, Response to the Government of Uganda Country Report on the Implementation of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2 (Feb. 1997).
 Id. at § 10.
 Id. at § 11
 Id. at § 13
 Id. at § 14
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