6/7/12

Intern Update - 6/7/12 (Gregory Lush)


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 Gregory Lush, 3L

Peace and Reconciliation Project 
Rule of Law Development
Uganda 

Headlamp - check. Duct tape - check. Work gloves - check. Mosquito net - check. This isn't going to be your typical internship. Thankfully, I will be traveling with a great friend of mine, Kirk Schweitzer, who has been to Uganda before. Since I learned that I was accepted for this internship a few months ago, people have been asking me what I am going to be doing there. My answers are usually vague and non-committal; I normally answer with something like, "I'm not really sure – but it’s in Uganda!" or "I think I'm going to be helping rural farmers settle land disputes in northern Uganda." 

Before being offered this internship, I knew little about Africa, and even less about Uganda. The truth is I still know very little. I am not in Uganda yet, but I have been reading in preparation. What I have learned is that Uganda is a very young nation - it gained independence from the UK about fifty years ago - and it is still recovering from wars that displaced people from their homes and ruined families. In a nation so young, wars are not fragments of distant memories, but are current sources of division. During the nation's conflicts, families had to move away from their farms, only to return years later to find their land being cultivated by someone else. In a country that has historically been based on customary law, where land is passed from father to son from generation to generation, there are few documents to prove who owns what. Where there is little documentation, there will be much dispute and confusion. When a family who possessed a plot of land for decades has to vacate the land because of violence, only to return years later and find their land being farmed by another family, who, in their good fortune found an empty plot and started making it useful - which family rightfully owns the land? If this situation arose in America, we would probably ask the families to produce a document that proved rightful ownership, then apply the law of that jurisdiction to settle the dispute. The rule of law would help find the answer. But in a developing country like Uganda, where a new title system is developing, but is still in the early stages and without years' worth of history to bolster its validity, there is a crossroads between customary law and new statutory law. If official title is given to the more recent owner by a statutory law, what happens to the owner who had originally been given the land via customary law, but has now been displaced? The weight of this question gets even heavier when you realize that your answer might end up costing a family its sustenance. 

These are the types of problems that I have learned we will be faced with in Uganda, and thankfully there are organizations that are working to develop the rule of law there and do justice in the land. We will be working with Peace and Reconciliation Ministries in Africa (PRMA) to implement biblical mediation techniques and reach outcomes that (hopefully) are pleasing to all sides of the dispute. 

So now when I am asked, "what are you going to be doing in Uganda?" I will have to say, "I'm not entirely sure, but I will be asking God for wisdom, because I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do it on my own." 

          - Gregory Lush, 6/7/12

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