East African Legal Aid Networks Conference
Kituo Cha Sheria attended the conference of the East African Legal Aid Networks, organized by International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the East Africa Community (EAC) Secretariat and the National Legal Aid Service (NLAS). The Conference was held at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya from the 5th to 8th November 2018. IDLO (through its Africa Initiative Program) in collaboration with the National Legal Aid Service (NLAS), the Paralegal Support Network (PASUNE) and the East African Committee on Judicial Education (EAJEC) under the auspices of the East Africa Community (EAC) Secretariat supported this inaugural East African legal aid regional network meeting. The Conference was held under the theme- “Promoting Access to Justice through state-funded legal aid schemes: Building platforms for the engagement of legal aid networks and the formal justice systems”. Hon. Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki the Attorney General of Kenya gave the key note address during the opening of the conference and said that it is in defence of public interest that access to justice remains a fundamental priority. The Conference provided a platform for experience sharing by legal aid organizations from the East Africa Region; including lessons learnt, challenges and good practices. Participants were in agreement that the right of access to justice guaranteed under Constitution is illusory without legal aid. Kituo’s Executive Director Gertrude Angote was a panelist in discussions around innovations on various approaches to legal aid delivery and sustainability during the 4-days conference. The conference brought together about 50 participants drawn from a pool of policy makers, legal aid practitioners including representatives of the respective Ministries of Justice, the Judiciary Training Institutes in the region, the secretariat of the EAC, regional Bar Associations, Offices of Public Prosecution, pro bono lawyers, the East Africa Law Society, relevant UN agencies and other development partners, Paralegal support networks, members of the Civil Society, law schools in Universities that operate legal aid clinics, Faith Based Organizations and Community Based Organizations from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
In addition, various experts experienced in the establishment and administration of legal aid schemes were in attendance to share their experiences. The conference ultimately sought to enhance established links between civil society legal aid providers, including paralegals, NGOs and state justice actors in the East Africa region.