On Thursday 9, 2015 Kituo cha Sheria turns 42! Our vision still remains a society of justice and equity for all. Our current strategic plan 2015-2019 is themed “Towards Legal Aid, Legal Empowerment and Social transformation”.
Kituo Cha Sheria was established in 1973 by a group of young lawyers who saw the need for the poor to access legal advice and justice. These lawyers volunteered their time in the evenings and weekends to provide legal advice, draft briefs and to direct helpless litigants to the respective courts or tribunals. Most of our clients are on one hand poor and vulnerable people living in the urban slums, and on the other hand, poor and marginalized communities from the semi-Arid and Arid lands where communal conflicts and access to justice is limited due to inadequate justice, infrastructure and lack of awareness. Housing, land and labour rights remain a major area of concern in accessing justice and legal advice.
Kituo has linked litigation and advocacy together, thereby empowering individuals and communities to demand their rights or seek legal redress. As a result, evictions have significantly reduced and land grabbing does not happen without a fight for justice. Our programs are now linked with advocacy and agitation for policy change.
Kituo has been feted for contribution to the development of jurisprudence on access to justice in Kenya with myriad successes including a positive judgment we secured for the right of prisoners to vote in the referendum in 2010 and the 2013 General Elections. We also secured orders in 2012 that the directive by Government to have all refugees confined in Dadaab was illegal and unconstitutional.
We also moved to court and got orders on the Muthurwa right to housing case which set precedence for respect of human rights during evictions.
KITUO has also defined leadership in the NGO sector through recognition as the Civil Society of the Year (CSOYA) award winner in 2010 and 2012, winner of Transparency Cup of ICJ, in 2012 and to the Law Society of Kenya Justice Cup Runners up in 2013.
KITUO won the Distinguished Service Award of the Law Society of Kenya as well as the UNDP AMKENI’s best performing CSO in Access to Justice, in 2014. Internationally, KITUO has won several awards and nominations. Key among them was the BBC Radio Documentary Award for the paralegal work in Shimo La Tewa Prison (2014), nomination for the Rockefeller Foundation award (2013), nomination for the Innovative Justice Award by the University of Tilburg (HAGUE) and a recent nomination for the Namati Justice Awards (2015). KITUO was also nominated for the Institutional Justice category Award by the East Africa Law Society in 2013.
Kituo’s story is however not fully told without a mention of events of the early 1990’s and the challenges Kituo and other civil society organizations operated under. March 15th 1995, was a turning point for Kituo Cha Sheria. At exactly 12:45pm, three men walked into Ushirika Cooperative House, Museum Hill; two of them carrying black suit cases and one man enquired from the guard on which floor Kituo Cha Sheria was located. He walks in and briskly walks out. Minutes later, a loud explosion is heard which explodes into fire burning most of Kituo offices as the attackers sped off using a white salon car.
A guard was shot on the leg as they struggled with the arsonists. About eight (8) people were trapped inside the building but they managed to escape. The condemnation of that was widespread with voices terming it as an attack to the thousands of poor Kenyans who needs free legal aid services.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) which is one of the oldest Faith Based organization and engaged in advocacy and social justice, provided the physical space for Kituo in our early days as well. Our development partners with whom we share a vision of working towards a society of equity and justice for all and the people who have made Kituo what we are today over the last 42 years have a lot to be proud of.
We, therefore, invite all of you who care for justice to journey with us and share your noble ideas, support and resources towards the achievement of the call for legal aid, legal empowerment and social justice.
The next frontier in this journey Kituo has worked with and for the poor is technology and innovation to promote access to justice and particularly M-Sheria, a mobile phone based legal aid provision platform; to bridge the gap further in serving the poor and marginalized.
In celebration with our staff, partners and mostly the people we serve, Kituo Cha Sheria will carry out a free legal aid clinic on 7th July, 2015 at Kituo Gardens (Head Office) and a Birthday Lunch/Conference at the Laico Regency- Nairobi themed- “Using Technology to Promote Access to Justice” on 9th July, 2015.