International Development Law Organization

Alumni Voices from Uganda – thirty years on

17 Jan 2020

In 1984, while working as a State Attorney at the Ugandan Ministry of Justice, Fredrick Ruhindi had the opportunity to come to Rome and spend three months as a participant at IDLI’s very first  ‘Development Lawyers Course’ – a 12-week course providing intensive training on legal skills such as advising, negotiating, drafting, researching and dispute resolution.

During a distinguished career spanning more than three decades, he went on to be elected as a Member of the Ugandan Parliament, later becoming Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and then Attorney-General. More than thirty years on, Hon. Ruhindi still holds “fond memories” of his time in Rome, and the crucial negotiation skills he learnt while he was there.

“When I was Attorney-General I remember we had so many serious disputes here relating to capital gains tax with very big companies in the oil sector (…) and that training helped me,” he remarked during a recent interview with IDLO in Kampala.

“No wonder the organization has gone from strength to strength” he added.

Hon. Ruhindi is one of the many thousands of IDLO Alumni from around the globe who were trained by the Organization during its earlier history when its mandate was focused primarily on offering training through a range of courses delivered both at the Rome headquarters and several regional offices to thousands of legal professionals from across the developing world.

In Uganda alone there are estimated to be several hundred IDLO Alumni.

Another is Hon. Dora Byamukama, a former Member of the Ugandan Parliament and the East African Legislative Assembly. She came to IDLO back in 1994 and like Hon. Ruhindi she also spent twelve weeks in Rome attending the flagship Development Lawyers Course.

Hon. Byamukama also remembers well the training she received at IDLO on negotiation skills and how struck she was at the time by the idea of a “win-win” negotiation.

“(…) We thought as a lawyer the winner takes it all. (…) Whenever I negotiate on a personal basis or otherwise, I’m looking for a win-win situation and I attribute this to IDLI,” she remarked.

During a long and prominent career as a legislator both at the national and East African level, Hon. Byamukama has been responsible for drafting at least a dozen laws on subjects ranging from human trafficking to disability rights, from female genital mutilation to the administration of the East African State Assembly. She believes her early training on legal drafting skills at IDLO has helped her along the way.

Hon. Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire is a Justice at the Court of Appeal of Uganda and former Head of the Commercial Court at the High Court of Uganda. He spent five weeks in Rome during the mid-nineties, as a participant of IDLO’s ‘Enterprise and Investment Lawyers Course’. Justice Kiryabwire believes his experience at IDLO helped inspire him to specialize in commercial and corporate law and was a “big benefit” to him professionally.

Hon. Justice Elizabeth Ibanda Nahamya is a retired judge from the High Court of Uganda, International Crimes Division, who has also contributed at the international level to the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Arusha, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In 1992 she spent time at IDLO studying environmental issues and sustainable development.

“I engaged in negotiation which impacted so much on the work that I do because inevitably I have to negotiate one way or the other,” she commented.

After retiring from the bench, Justice Nahamya went on to establish and become the Executive Director of Emerging Solutions Africa, an NGO focusing on access to justice and issues related to human trafficking and refugees.

In addition to the improved negotiation skills she attributes to her time at IDLO, Justice Nahamya also has warm memories of the peer-to-peer learning opportunities provided by her experience in Rome.

“I enjoyed interacting with other lawyers from other countries because you learn from them, from each other, and you are able to improve the way you handle legal issues,” she said.

 

Fredrick, Dora, Geoffrey and Elizabeth spoke to IDLO in the margins of an informal meeting with IDLO’s former Director-General, Irene Khan, during her visit to Kampala in September 2019.

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