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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Karaoke, Remand Home's, and Thunderstorms

Mitchell Emmert- Kampala, Uganda

Following a safari and half of our group getting some sort of food poisoning this week, we decided to take it easy and stay in Kampala for the weekend. Our exhaustion didn't stop us from partaking in some high class karaoke. Everyone from the cohort made it up at some point to "sing" classics such as: "knock, knock, knockin on heaven's door", "can you take me higher?", and we all collectively sang Chumbawumba's epic single "I get knocked down." Of course it wouldn't have been a real karaoke experience without someone singing Elvis and taking themselves very seriously, and many Ugandan's filled the part in stoically belting out American pop music.

It was a fun night after a week of work and nearly wrapping up the remand home briefs. I'm very eager to find out what will happen when the cases go to trial. Most of the children we interviewed initially denied all allegations, but a few admitted their guilt right away and simply hoped to get to trial and move on with their lives. Although it's easy to assume the innocence of a child while sitting in a jail and hearing their stories, I truly believe many of the children are innocent. However, once we had most of our files from the DPP (prosecution) a few members from our group found more evidence than they expected, and upon asking the children further questions, a few changed their stories. Though we don't include this in the summary brief as that would be creating evidence, which is not our role, it was hard because we all became emotionally invested in the cases and wanted to believe everything the children said.

Overall it was a very valuable experience. The children have no access to legal advice, and essentially are left without any ability to communicate with their family or friends for months or years at a time. When we called some of their relatives to cross check testimony and verify that the kids had a place to go if released many were very appreciative to know that someone cared and was working on the case. I felt honored to hopefully push their cases forward, and hopefully be a very small part in bringing about justice.

There was a big thunderstorm this weekend, which came while a few of us were at a market in "old kampala." Walking around old kampala is the closest thing I imagine to the streets of India. The traffic is very haphazard with delivery trucks stopped in the middle of the road and motorcycles weaving in and out of non-existent lanes and occasionally hopping on to the sidewalk. The market was extremely crowded with live chickens in cages, charred fish hanging precariously on strings, and dozens of produce stands selling tropical fruits. The locals call us Mzungu's, and many pushed through the crowd just to shake our hands and ask about the States, Obama, and if we liked Uganda. A few also tried to get me to try their fried grasshoppers, I politely sidestepped the invitation. A lot of them also wanted to have a picture taken, usually refusing to smile but then grinning from ear to ear when viewing it, go figure.