Kituo Cha Sheria Milestone
1973 – 1980
2nd July 1973: Legal Advice Centre Founded
Legal Advice Centre received Stout effort award
Legal Advise Centre and Its functions
Murtaza Jaffer – The fundamental principle of Kituo was to keep the doors open to the street in provision of access to justice. However, some of us started losing interest in keeping our doors open to the street when money started flowing in from the donors, which was a major challenge. There were a lot of threats and we were being followed down the street when we were handling cases. Our senior colleagues threatened to debar me for “bringing profession into disrepute” by providing legal aid to the poor.”
Mwambi Mwasaru: One of the challenges back then was the question of how do you teach law and rights to people in the village. In the early 70s, when KITUO lawyers went to conduct legal education for the layman, the people would say they were not interested in attending law class, getting a law degree or certificate. Their interest was knowing how the law was going to help them sort their legal problems. The lawyers were pushed to discuss issues and share legal knowledge that was relevant to the people. Slowly this interaction between Kituo Cha Sheria and the people began to develop into an outreach programme now called Advocacy Governance and Community Partnership, one of the programmes still implemented at Kituo. #KituoAt50 #KituoGoldenJubilee
24th May 1976
The Legal advice Centre shifted its offices to Eastleigh Community Centre from St. Theresa’s Church in Eastleigh in Nairobi.
1980 – 1990
In 1983, the Public Law Institute established a reference library specializing in public interest issues and providing citizens with information on their legal rights. Kituo Cha Sheria was among the reputable organizations that the Institute partnered with to enhance legal education programmes and offer free legal advisory services to the disadvantaged
1989 – Change of name to Kituo Cha Sheria from Kituo Cha Mashauri.
1990 – 2000
1990 – Kituo launched citizen right campain
In the 1990s, land in Kenya became a key asset of political patronage and forced evictions of informal settlements rose steeply. To resist the brutal evictions, land grabbing and the insensitivity of the administration which evicted slum dwellers without offering alternatives, Kituo Cha Sheria launched an operation dubbed Firimbi, a campaign to put wananchi on the guard against the illegal acquisition of land and to resist unlawful eviction.
We, Kituo Cha Sheria, appreciate the solidarity and support from everyone on the fight against forced evictions
1990 – Kituo helped the Majaoni community get back their land
In the early 90s the rich people noticed that the Majaoni land, a prime land along Mtwapa creep, was being occupied by the poor who had stayed there since pre-colonial times and lacked title deeds. They took advantage of this and began to evict them. The residents approached Kituo for legal assistance. Kituo conducted a land search and found out that the land had no ownership. Kituo did demand letters to the rich beseeching them to respect the rights of the residence. Kituo went further and assisted the residents to acquire the land legally. Today the place is a whole town with the majority of people living there and not a poached area for a few people
1990 – Kituo saved Toi Market Traders from unlawful eviction
In the 90s, the traders working at Toi Market found themselves being evicted without notice or a relocation plan. They came to KITUO to seek legal assistance. The court system fronted the notion that private land was sacrosanct and that land titles, many of which had been issued irregularly, could not be revoked once issued. The law is supposed to protect justice. But when the law fails to protect justice what do we do? Kituo used various advocacy tactics to defend justice.
1990 – Formation of Paralegal Movement
Kituo realized the need to go beyond the convention of the legal practice to seek working closely with communities to find solutions to their legal problems. The law had so many limitations especially in a government that was anti-people and that relying on the law alone was not sufficient. It was therefore critical to work with the people and to rely on the power that the people have as well as to empower the people to have the capacity to resolve their problems. This led to the formation of the paralegal program within Kituo.
July 1990: Nairobi advocate Ben Mukuria who played rugby for Kenya, ventured to raise Sh4.2m for the free legal advisory centre, “Kituo Cha Sheria,” by taking part in the Mombasa International marathon (7th July 1990). Ben noted that there were thousands of Kenyans who got into legal problems and afterwards terrible agony if they could not afford legal representation.
Because of the great need for more aid, Kituo relied much more on public spirit and goodwill from the Law Society of Kenya. Ben Hoped to do more by raising at least Sh4.2 million for the centre through the demanding 42km marathon course in Mombasa.
15TH MARCH 1995 – KITUO OFFICES BOMBED
At around 1pm on 15 March, two men approached the offices (Ushirika cooperative house in museum hill). One entered and threw the fire bomb into the reception, where two clients were waiting at the time. It exploded, destroying the reception area. At the same time, the second attacker shot at two security guards, hitting them both in the legs, before escaping with his accomplice in a waiting car. Eight staff members, trapped on the third floor of the building by the fire, attempted to rip off iron bars from windows in a bid to escape. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished, after causing an estimated KSh400,000 worth of damage, and there were no further injuries. This was the sixth violent attack on the Kituo offices. The attacks were linked and were part of a pattern of intimidation of human rights activists.
Following the bombing, landlords were apprehensive of leasing their premises to Kituo. Kituo relocated to NGO Council Offices – yaya centre and later to Shauri Moyo before relocating to Nyayo studium in 1996.
1998 – Kituo offer free legal advice and representaion to the victim of the 1998 bomb blast.
25 years after they fell victim to a terror attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi, thousands of Kenyans and families of the dead and wounded are still crying for justice.
Kituo Cha Sheria in 2021 filed a case in which they seek among others a declaration that the government compromised or violated the right to life, security of Person and the legitimate expectation of the of the Petitioners and the estates
1995 – Kituo employs full time advocates.
In 1995 Kituo got funding from
Hivos. This enabled Kituo to hire full human resource personnel including full
time advocates and the secretariat. This also assisted the Centre to continue
to give free advice to the needy and establish branches all over the country.
1996 – Limuru PIL Case: The Limuru Road project, a major highway link between Nairobi and key outlying provinces, evidently adversely affected the residents. A quarry, evidence of the degrading effect of the Limuru project that sparked public outrage over the health and ecological impact. The residents through Kituo Cha Sheria sought compensation for the environmental and social disruption caused by the project and for suffering health problems attributable to the project.
1996 – Establishment of Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Slum Dwellers Federation)
The years between 1995 and 1998 were characterized by violent and indiscriminate demolitions, forced evictions. These led to Kituo filling numerous court cases on behalf of victims. The court system fronted the notion that private land was sacrosanct and that land titles, many of which had been issued irregularly, could not be revoked once issued. Kituo Cha Sheria consequently lost all of its cases.
Kituo realized that resolving cases after eviction was not enough. Something had to be done to prevent the evictions from happening in the first place. Although slum dwellers tried to resist evictions by uprooting construction material put in place by contractors (employed by private landowners), their actions were haphazard and mostly ineffective.
Kituo then organized the slum dwellers into a formal institution to ensure that Slum dwellers actions gained legitimacy, command respect and deliver better results. This was done in collaboration with the church and other civil society organizations. The Federation which would later grow into a movement of more than 60,000 members from slums in eleven districts around Kenya was able to retain possession of all slum settlements that were facing eviction and whose court cases Kituo Cha Sheria had lost.
2000 – 2010
Purchase of Kituo’s prime location Ole Odume Road.
Following the bombing, landlords were apprehensive of leasing their premises to Kituo. Eventually, Kituo acquired its own premises in 2000, located at the junction of Argwings Kodhek and ole Odume Road in Lavington.
Kituo also established Mombasa regional Office same year.
2002 – Kituo Launched its first Membership AGM
The members were drawn from different professions and every part of the country took over the control of Kituo Cha Sheria from its founders and managers. Kituo in effect became a Kenyan national institution independent of its founders and managers. Kituo continued to recruit volunteer advocates (whose number stood at 243VAs in 2002 from 17VAs in 1997) across the country and ensured they are adequately represented in its board and the General Assembly
2002 – Kituo delved into the policy reform field as part of its efforts to confront the injustices that, in the first place, forced people to seek legal aid. Kituo identified policy reform as a necessary precondition for access to substantive, as opposed to formal, justice.
Kituo drafted a Bill and launched a campaign to repeal the laws governing public land administration.
Being an active member of the Kenya Land Alliance, Kituo advocated for constitutional review through the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission. Additionally, Kituo initiated a campaign to address the right to shelter and formulate housing policies and legislative regimes that would specifically address the plight of urban informal settlements
The National Housing Bill 2005
Kituo Cha Sheria authored a draft Bill to provide for the right to affordable housing. The National Housing Bill 2005 intended to help the poor access housing, and to eliminate legal and customary barriers to women’s access to land and wealth. It will encourage private firms to take part in planning and managing housing projects.
2006 – Kituo established Nyando Community Justice Centre
The Nyando Justice Centre was established in 2006 as the flagship Kituo cha Sheria community justice centre covering the Nyanza region. Since its inception, the Nyando Justice Centre has been greatly involved in promoting legal empowerment in the region most of the times in collaboration with local administration and even the police service.
2008 – Kituo established Forced Migration Programme
The FMP is devoted to addressing legal and policy needs of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons residing in urban areas in Kenya with a view to improving their welfare and guaranteeing access to and enjoyment of the institution of asylum.
2010 – 2020
PRISONERS PARTICIPATE IN THE 2010 REFERENDUM
In June 2010 Prisoners from Shimo La Tewa together with Kituo petitioned the government to allow them take part in the 2010 REFERENDUM. The court ruled in their favor in a landmark ruling, compelling the IIEC to register all inmates from prisons all over the country as voters, so that they could take part in the constitutional plebiscite, that being the first one of its kind in Kenya
In 2010, Kituo, on behalf of the over 300 Muthurwa residents filed a petition on the enforcement of the right to housing. The court found that the residents’ rights to accessible and adequate housing had been violated by the registered Trustees of Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefits Scheme that had attempted to violently and illegally evict the residents. They asked the residents to vacate the premises without any regard to their lack of alternative housing. As a result of the Muthurwa case, Kituo challenged members of parliament to enact a law on evictions and resettlement. This informed the Evictions and Resettlement Bill 2012
2010 – The 1st Annual Public interest litigation colloquium
The first Annual Public interest litigation colloquium took place between 17th to 18th November 2010 with the theme: “setting the pace for public interest litigation: Prospects, potentials and obstacles in Litigating Socio Economic and cultural rights”
2013: landmark ruling – Kenya prisoners
win right to vote
In 2013, the High Court termed it illegal, the move to block prisoners from electing their leaders. The inmates were then allowed to vote for their preferred presidential candidates in the 2017 polls. This follows a petition by Kituo Cha Sheria seeking to compel the electoral commission to register prisoners as voters and make necessary arrangements to enable them to take part in the polls as they did in the 2010 constitutional referendum.
2013 – Bulla Fot Case
In this case, the High Court in Embu affirmed the rights to own property of the Bula Fot Clan in Garissa County; a community that had on several occasions been evicted by the government since 1963 from their ancestral land, a result of which they lost property and suffered grave violations of human rights. In the judgment delivered in February 2013, the Court found that the petitioners’ rights had been violated and that the State has a constitutional obligation to provide services to the applicants in a sustainable manner and promote social and economic development. The court also awarded compensation of Ksh.8 million and each petitioner Ksh.250,000.00.
Legal Aid Bill 2015
KITUO played a pivotal role on the Legal Aid Bill 2015 and received positive response on its recommendations broadening the definition of accredited paralegals, justice advisory centres and legal aid clinics. Kituo also prepared and presented to cabinet a memo of clarification to the Bill which was accepted and held a landmark 2-day workshop with members of parliament (MP) from the parliamentary caucus on Human Rights to influence and expedite the process of legislation in parliament.
2015 – Kituo represents victims and parents of the Garisa University Attack
After the fatal attack by terrorists that happened at the Garissa University College on the 2nd April 2015 that saw a total of 147 students lost their lives, the parents approached Kituo Cha Sheria seeking legal advice and representation, accusing the university and the state for failing to ensure the security of their children, laxity, complacency and a slow response as a result of which there was a long siege leading to much loss of lives.
The Petitioners case is that the University and the State failed to take adequate measures to prevent the attack or in the least to mitigate the effects of the attack. Kituo continues to fight for the rights of the victims.
landmark ruling: Court blocks Kenya’s bid to close Daadab Refugee Camp and DRA Kituo was the main petitioner
The closure of Daadab Refugee Camp and DRA was terrifying, shocking, a rejection of humanity as described by residents of Kenya’s two largest refugee camps to express their fear and despondency over the news that the government was trying to have the settlements shut down imminently. The refugees breathed a sigh of relief after the court ruled that the Kenyan government must not close the Daadab refugee Camp in a case filed by Kituo Cha Sheria on behalf of the refugees. The Court declared the repatriation of the refugees a violation of Articles 2(5) and 2(6) of the Constitution of Kenya and Kenya’s international obligations.
2016: M-Haki Developed
Many prisoners have benefited from the paralegal training in prison. The empowerment efforts through the prison paralegals project in prisons across Kenya have paid off, with an increase in the number of convicts successfully arguing their cases and getting acquitted
Mr Alloys Onyango Odhiambo, an ex-inmate, was among the first beneficiaries of prison paralegals’ training. Alloys, just like many other beneficiaries of the basic law training, have been able to use the knowledge to successfully represent themselves and their peers in Court. Alloys was acquitted on September 20th 2018 after successfully urging his case
Kituo Cha Sheria on 18th April 2023 presented a public petition regarding proposed enactment of legislation on enforced disappearances. Enforced disappearances are commonly accompanied by extrajudicial killings, tarnishing the fabric of law enforcement and the rule of law in the country. In execution of its mandate, Kituo Cha Sheria has found that the matter of enforced disappearances and judicial killings has been particularly prominent and disturbing within our country Kenya.
According to statistics from Missing Voices compiled from 2007, 256 cases of enforced disappearances have been documented and 1,349 have been victims of extrajudicial killings. Yet, as it is now, the law is limited in the extent to which especially enforced disappearances can be prosecuted.
It is for this reason that Kituo Cha Sheria petitioned parliament to enact legislation to criminalize and prescribe penalties for the crime of enforced disappearances as there is a high trend of extra-judicial killings. Currently, there is no law holding suspects accountable as people are disappearing while in Police custody