Witnessing justice in Uganda and Mozambique
Andrew Caplen’s passion for justice comes from his mission to always speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. The lawyer, solicitor and former President of the Law Society of England and Wales is currently travelling in Uganda and Mozambique to visit some of BMS World Mission’s legal projects. What he’s seen is incredible.
“Almighty and very-loving God, I give you thanks, glory and honour for what you are doing in my life. I therefore humbly pray that you continue to guide and help me be what you want me to be.”
Those are not the words most people would expect to hear from a 31-year-old who was sentenced to death and has spent nearly half of his life in prison. Yet those are the words of Benjamin Kamugisha.
At the young age of 16, Benjamin was accused of murder in Uganda. He has always maintained that he is innocent. Even though he was a juvenile, Benjamin was tried in an adult court and was sentenced to death. He was devastated.
Yet somehow he held onto his Christian faith and eventually received support from BMS partner the Uganda Christian Lawyers’ Fraternity (UCLF) that would change his life.
The injustice Benjamin felt crushed by actually brought him closer to God. During his time in prison he didn’t give up on his hope for the future. He turned to education, and while serving his sentence he had the opportunity to study law. He earned a degree in Common Law and through his studies he discovered that he had the right to apply to the High Court to get his sentence reduced.
The judge accepted Benjamin’s request and reopened his case. That’s when he met a woman named Sarah who works for UCLF, and who agreed to take on his case “pro bono” or free of charge. She believed Benjamin had been incorrectly tried and that his case was a violation of the Ugandan constitution.
Through the support of Sarah and UCLF, Benjamin ended up getting released from prison, and Andrew was amazed by how God had worked in Benjamin’s life.
“Benjamin’s story is brilliant,” says Andrew. “He’s either someone who was innocent who managed to stay close to God throughout his time in prison or he’s someone who has done something wrong and has had a conversion experience.”
This is just one of the stories that Andrew has had the privilege to hear while visiting Uganda. He believes there are probably many difficult cases that are similar to Benjamin’s. Uganda’s justice system faces many challenges such as delays, inaction and lost files.
Although it may seem disheartening, Andrew has been impressed by the work that BMS does with our partner UCLF in Uganda. At the heart of UCLF’s mission is justice for all through the provision of legal aid, legal education and research and policy advocacy on behalf of vulnerable people in society. The work visiting prisons, representing people free of charge, providing counselling and working on land rights has made a big impact.
“All that they’re doing is something we can actually follow in the UK,” says Andrew. “And the dedication of the BMS workers out here is absolutely tremendous.”
Andrew will spend some time in Mozambique learning more about BMS justice ministries before he returns to the UK. And although his trip will end, his mission to fight injustice will not.
“I’m a lawyer and I think a lot of lawyers come into law because they want to change the world and make a difference. I never lost the reason why I came into law in the first place. I’m still passionate about justice issues,” says Andrew.
Please pray for BMS justice ministries in Uganda and Mozambique as we seek to bring justice to the oppressed. You can support our work by becoming a BMS 24:7 Justice Partner today.
You can read about Andrew Caplen’s experiences exploring justice in Uganda and Mozambique by reading his blog.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.