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Excerpts from the Justice for Children 3rd Quarter review meeting

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KITGUM - His Worship Felix Omara, Chief Magistrate Kitgum in his opening remarks welcomed participants to Kitgum. “If children “copy and paste”, who do they copy from?" he questioned the participants. He suggested, "It’s from us. Let’s learn only one thing- we need to find out workable solutions and stop lamenting. If you say there are lots of children in the prisons, how did they get there? If we don’t handle ourselves well as parents or potential parents, there’s no way the children will be different”

Below are remarks from key stakeholder present at the meeting:
Lady Justice Margaret Mutonyi, Resident Judge Gulu High Court Circuit, and first Chairperson of J4C---This meeting should help us identify challenges and achievements and map out opportunities for the future. Need a holistic approach to strengthen the function of justice for children.

Key focus areas: Children at risk, Victims of [Gender based] violence and  Children in conflict with the law
Are the children’s rights protected in Acholi Sub-region? We still have children in our system staying longer than the statutory period. We still have cases of children from as far as Kitgum, Amuru, Agago and remanded in Gulu. How can that help in making sure that cases are heard in time? How can you expect a child remanded in Gulu to travel to and from Kitgum for hearing of his case?
Majority of the cases recorded are of aggravated defilement. We need to fast-track children’s cases. A child of 3-years cannot even remember the offender if a case drags on for more than 3 years. We need to assist the victims of defilement to testify when they are still annoyed but when they feel shy, they do not wish to associate with what happened to them.
Sending children to the National Rehabilitation Center in Kampilingisa is a risk of making them worse criminals. Do we have a follow up mechanism to assess whether after they have served their time in Kampilingisa, they have changed or not? Each individual should ask-what have I done as an individual to ensure results as set out by the programme. J4C was not a still birth; it is an innovation by CJSI, borne by UNICEF, owned by JLOS and to be nurtured to full growth by institutions in the justice systems- State and non-State. This review is not to point fingers at anybody but self-evaluation. Is this baby sitting, crawling, walking, independent? We need to be candid in answering this question.
Let’s maintain connections. If you are handing over office to someone, make sure you introduce the programme to them.

Other selected remarks:

Valentine Namakula, CJSI Executive Director

“It’s possible to protect children better. This is what the 18 flagship sites were set up to demonstrate and have demonstrated . J4C is a programme of JLOS designed to draw us to the drawing board in terms of what we are supposed to do in the protection of justice for children. As the pilot programme draws to an end, we as stakeholders, have the opportunity to shape what justice for children should be in 2015. Right now 18/112 DCC are benefiting".
Irene Oluka (UNICEF) thanked justice actors and J4C for all efforts in delivering justice for children. We could see from the district reviews that a lot has been done and we appreciate all efforts especially the coordination. Yesterday in Pader, I was happy to know they were doing some advocacy work prior to J4C, and this is what gave birth to the Gulu Remand Home. This review may not be the end of us working together because the problems of children are enormous.
Susan Okalany, J4C National Coordinator- Matters of children are close to my heart, and even if I have no biological children, I love children so much. We must evolve a case management culture by collecting proper information and data. It does not matter whether you love children or not. Children remember things rapidly but they also forget rapidly-as such their cases must be handled while the child can still remember. If we do not handle children correctly from criminals, we are creating a circus for the future-they are going to grow up into criminal adults

By Tumusiime K. Deo,