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EU to Fund Universal Access to Justice Programme

The European Union will support an initiative aimed at ensuring that there is universal access to justice services in the country.

The Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD) Team Leader Dr. Fourlas Gerasimos said that the EU had set aside Sh 335 million to ease access to justice for Kenyans in the twelve selected counties.

Speaking during a courtesy call on Acting Marsabit County Commissioner Patrick Muriira, Dr. Gerasimos said the EU was committed to seeing that there was enhanced democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.

This, he added could be enhanced through building technical capacities and creating awareness on the importance of upholding the rule of law.

He said the project that was started in 2018 would have its last phase implemented by the National Legal Aid Service and would end by August 24, next year. “NLAS will be added an extra six months in which to bring the project to a conclusive end,” he said.

The 12 counties targeted in the five-year initiative include seven in the marginal parts of the country which are Wajir, Mandera, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Marsabit, and Isiolo. The rest five are urban centers of Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru.

Dr. Gerasimos said the role of the EU was purely financial support to NLAS to enable the legal office in procuring the necessary equipment and services like ICT services, mobile phone applications for services and website designs.

NLAS Acting CEO Flora Bidali said the objective was to take legal services to the grassroots level where awareness is low especially as concerns alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

Bidali said that NLAS seeks to provide legal aid service to the vulnerable and marginalized in society.

“We shall be establishing a legal aid scheme to assist the poor in accessing legal services besides promoting the capacity of the lowly in society in regard to education and legal awareness concerns,” said the CEO.

According to the CEO, the council of elders for communities under the project scope would be brought on board to give impetus to the alternative legal dispute resolution system.

Bidali said priority would be accorded to the gender based violence cases as well as reduction of legal suit backlogs at the law courts.

In his welcoming remarks, Mr Muriira said justice was a catalyst not only for peace but also social-economic development.

He assured the team of support and cooperation adding that his office would provide NLAS with an office in order to ensure that they settled down with ease.

According to a report by the judiciary which was released in 2018, over 4 million arrests by police occur every year but only 32% of the cases reach the courts.

The report indicates that 70% of the charges are usually linked to petty offences hence NLAS would seek to put pressure on the courts to speed up the process.

Also present was the administrative assistant at the attorney general’s office, Florence Amit.

By Sebastian Miriti

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