Strathmore Law Clinic Legal Aid Caravan 2023

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The Strathmore Law Clinic is a student run organization founded in 2016 and dedicated to furthering access to justice. The Clinic works towards this goal through advocacy and outreach programs such as the annual Legal Aid Week during which Strathmore University opens its doors to members of the public to obtain free legal services provided by law students in the clinic under the supervision of our network of advocates. 

This year, however, the clinic decided to broaden its reach across counties by conducting the Annual Legal Aid Week in Samburu and Laikipia counties during the week of 30th October to 3rd November.  First of its kind, the project was a resounding success. 

Ideation

In my third year of law school, I was met with a unit known as the Law of Succession in which the lecturer, Dr. Gitahi, challenged us to conduct a succession legal clinic to a community outside Nairobi County. It was during this assignment that I realized just how underserved rural communities were, compared to Nairobi where numerous legal clinics, Non-governmental organizations, or Community-based organizations can be found with little to no hassle. It is in recognizing this that the Legal Aid Caravan was born – a legal clinic that tours various counties across the country dispensing legal assistance to underserved communities in rural areas. 

Preparation

The initial pitch was met with skepticism. However, after numerous meetings of trying to get all members of the leadership and faculty supervisors on board with the plan, it was time to get to work. The planning phase was hectic. There were many factors to take into consideration from any and all directions – partnering organizations, volunteering advocates, clinicians, meals and accommodation, translators, security, among many others. However, through a partnership with two organizations – Stellenbosch Law Clinic, and Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT) – things began to fall into place. The Stellenbosch University Law Clinic (based in South Africa) was in the works on a Constitutional Rights Training across Africa and to our convenience, were looking to execute the training in rural communities. IMPACT, on the other hand, is based in Kenya and has been working with indigenous communities in Northern Kenya. They provided an immeasurable amount of assistance in both the planning and the execution of the project through guiding us in site visits, providing translators, connecting us to local administration, etc. 

Furthermore, the clinic conducted two pre-visits conducted by Patrick Nzomo, Martin Munyoto, Myself, Emmanuel Kahero, and Alexia Mande to finalize on the preparation phase and marketing. 

Execution

The project was two-fold – a constitutional rights training in partnership with the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, ably represented by Mr. Odwa Ndweba, and the Legal Aid Clinic in partnership with IMPACT. The experience was equal parts fulfilling and heartbreaking. It was evident through our interactions with the clients that many were disillusioned over the idea of law or justice. Even worse, it became increasingly clear that a number of the issues,  such as insecurity and cultural beliefs, crossed beyond legal solutions. Nonetheless, the clinicians and our network of advocates did their best to provide legal solutions to as many problems as they could and further ensure implementation through referrals to our partners and local administration. An effort which did not go unnoticed as the community members continuously reminded us that no organization has tried to aid them in the way that we have. In as much as this was reassuring with regard to the direction of the clinic, it should also serve as a wake-up call to other able institutions and organizations to make efforts to help the underserved communities. 

Parting shots 

As every President that has come before me says, every year we get closer to reaching the potential of the clinic and with every such step, the potential of the clinic grows. As such, as my tenure nears its close, I can only express my extreme gratitude to the clinicians and my unwavering belief that in the hands of the Strathmore Law Clinic, access to justice is possible. 

Conclusion

As I conclude, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the parties involved. I would like to thank our partners – Mr. Odwa and team from Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, Ms. Purity Gakuo and her team from IMPACT, and our volunteering advocates for their trust, guidance, and support in this project. I am also grateful to the SLS Faculty, particularly Dr. Jane Wathuta, the Dean, and Mr. Wesley Ooro, the School Manager, for gracing us with their presence during the project. I am also grateful to Zeddy Brodrick from Communications for accompanying us and documenting our project. To my dear clinicians for always rising to the occasion, thank you. And last but most definitely not least, special gratitude to Patrick Nzomo, the SLC Faculty Director, and Martin Munyoto. The SLC Faculty Coordinator, and my fellow leaders for giving life to my vision for the clinic, this would not have been possible without you. Once again, I thank you all.

Written by: Selina Lwanga, President, Strathmore Law Clinic

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