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Strathmore Law School participates in a Moot Competition at Kamiti Prisons

Friday 23 February 2018, some Strathmore Law students had the privilege of representing the Strathmore Law Clinic in an annual moot court competition at Kamiti Prisons. Among the students representing the school were John Mwangi, Peacela Atim, Celine Tanui, Idris Yaye, Joy Mvatie and Wabia Karugu. Their able opponents comprised of prisoners at Kamiti prison who have been trained or are in the process of receiving training in a law degree courtesy of University of London. This is an initiative of the African Prisons Project (APP) in which University of London provides distance learning for undergraduate in Law for prisoners in Kenya and Uganda. It is on this basis that the moot competition took place. Two Strathmore Law School Lecturers accompanied them to the moot; Ms. Emmah Wabuke and Mr. Allan Munyao.

The moot competition was nothing but extraordinary. It did not confine itself to the confines of winning or losing as most moot court competitions do, rather it went far and beyond this, leaving the participants more informed and fueled with thirst and tenacity for learning the law.

Interactions with the prisoners formed the most interesting part of the visit. Contrary to expectations and sometimes misconceptions that we hold, the prisoners studying law were very welcoming and warm. They went out of their way to make sure that Strathmore representatives were comfortable, the atmosphere quite jovial – even cracking jokes in a bid to make us feel at home. Closer interaction with the prisoners dispelled a host of perceptions that prisoners are a brutish and rough lot. It was a great lesson in humility.

The students from Strathmore had an opportunity to take a tour around the prison, which further dispelled preconceived notions about prison. The tour revealed that the Prison, courtesy of the University of London, had acquired textbooks, a few computers and a printer. With these resources the prisoners were equipped to learn. However, let it not be mistaken that scarcity of resources resulted in production of lawyers who are half-baked. The quality of argument and mastery of the law which these prisoners expressed was simply outstanding.

The highlight of the competition was learning that graduates of the program and others in training had established a law firm, while still in prison. This firm provides among other things, education to the prisoners regarding criminal procedures, legal research, legal advice, type-outs for appeals and other court documents. These essential services are provided to the other inmates who cannot afford legal services free of charge. Further interaction revealed that the firm had achieved great success in its operations.

The experience was not only eye-opening but also humbling; the key learning being the need to contribute and give back to society. In essence, if a prisoner can afford to help out another why shouldn’t you?