Kituo Cha Sheria Celebrates Joseph Ojango Ongaya – a true Grassroots Justice Champion


“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”Brodi Ashton, Everneath

Goal 16 of the sustainable development goals speaks to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In promoting access to justice at the grassroots level, Kituo Cha Sheria works with trained community paralegals – men and women doing sterling pro-bono work within their communities. These dedicated and remarkable people generously donate their time, expertise, and energy to help close the gap in access to justice by offering credible and accountable legal aid services to indigent persons within their society.

Our community paralegals bring Article 48 of the Constitution of Kenya to life at the grassroots level;  Mzee Joseph Ojango Ongaya of the Kibera Community Justice Centre (Nairobi County) was one such champion.

Mzee Joseph Ojango served as chairman of the Kibera Community Justice Centre working in partnership with Kituo cha Sheria as a true human rights champion since 2008 until his passing on 3rd December 2017. Mzee Joseph Ojango Ongaya was born in 1958 to Mzee Ongaya Ojango and Veronica Onienga in Nyakwaka Vilage, Asonga Sub-location, Ugunja Constituency, Siaya County. Mzee Ojango received his formal education through the O-level school system where he excelled in his studies. Brother Ojango was born into a Catholic family and baptized at the St. Francis Rangala Parish. He later joined the St. Teresa’s Catholic Church in Eastleigh next to Pangani where he lived becoming a strong member of the church. Ojango was employed at Kenya Breweries Limited where he served dutifully till his retirement. After retirement he was involved in politics (Chairman of Orange Democratic Movement-Starehe Constituency, Nairobi County) social and voluntary works (NGO’s- Kituo Cha Sheria, IPOA, Kenya Human Rights Commission, among others) as well as various church activities. Mzee Ojango was truly blessed and served as a blessing to many since birth in 1958.

He was preceded in death by his loving parents, brother Lucas Ongaya, sister Mackrine Akoth and son Felix Manon Otieno. He lives to Cherish his wife Wilfridah Adhiambo, brother Mathews Magero, sisters Maria and Domtilla and his children Paul Victor Budung, Daughter in law Mercy Otieno,Beatrice Akinyi, Erick Omondi Mandoz El Prezida and Linet Atieno. Grandchildren Rachel Nelly, Liam Joseph Kyle Joseph and a host of nephews, nieces, cousins and other loving relatives and friends.

Kituo cha Sheria wishes to sincerely condole with Mzee Ojango’s family; we wish them the fortitude and presence of mind to go through this trying moment in their lives.

Community paralegals go the extra mile in doing their work, in some cases more than other permanent staff. Community paralegals are highly dedicated people, highly motivated by the desire to make tangible contributions to their communities by reaching the vulnerable and marginalized. They continuously develop their capacities to participate actively and constructively in the promotion of access to justice.

We celebrate our grassroots justice champions!


Kituo Cha Sheria

We care for justice.


Success Story of Alex Mmera Mwalati


Alex Mmera Mwalati from Kakamega worked as a radio producer at Sauti Ya Rehema (Sayare RTVN) for seven years until October 2015 when he voluntarily chose to resign and pursue other things. He duly followed the process required in terminating one’s employment by giving a notice period and diligently completing his tasks as he‘d always done.

At the end of the working relationship with Sayare RVTN,  Mmera requested payment of his outstanding arrears something which he got verbal commitments from the network management but which was not forthcoming. After several unfruitful attempts to get his dues, he decided to seek legal assistance. He approached the Milimani Commercial Court in Nairobi. “The Courts are where justice resides”, he said. At the Commercial Court he was directed to Kituo Cha Sheria for further assistance. He walked through the gate at Kituo Cha Sheria, an organization he’d heard about but never interacted with before, in April 2016. Mmera was registered as a new Kituo client and given legal advice on the actions he needed to take to get his arrears.  This was done before he was given another date to come and see a lawyer with all the relevant documents.

On 25th May, 2016 Mr. Mmera presented all the relevant documents (appointment letter, resignation letter and bank statements) necessary for his claim to Ms. Christine Obiero, a Kituo lawyer who advised the client, drafted demand letters and pleadings in pursuit of his claim. The employer remained non-committal to all communication from our client until the matter was filed in Nakuru-the nearest labour court to where Mmera was working. On being served the employer finally acknowledged the employee status of Mr. Mmera and the amount owed in arrears. After negotiations an agreement was put in place giving the formula of payment with Mmera receiving a cheque of Ksh. 138,000-the first installment in September 2016. The employer is expected to clear the balance by December 2016.

A beaming Mmera received the cheque as reward for his labour and persistence in pursuing his rights; he urges people to follow-up their issues where they feel deprived but as a good journalist warns that patience is key. He remains grateful to the team at Kituo for their work in giving hope to the poor and marginalized that they too have rights safeguarded in law that deserve to be pursued.

RCKM-Kituo cha Sheria

We Care for Justice

Kituo at the Mathare Legal Aid and Human Rights Advocacy (MLAHRA) Youth Forum

MLAHRA 1On June 30th 2016 Kituo joined the Mathare Legal Aid and Human Rights Advocacy (MLAHRA) and the youth of Mathare drawn from Mashimoni, Huruma and Area 3 from 9am to 12pm at the Undugu Vacational Training Center Polytechnic on Juja road for an awareness forum.

MLAHRA organizes monthly public forums geared towards promoting active citizenship with Gibson Maina, an activist and community organizer working in Mathare slum mobilizing around 40 youth leaders from all over Mathare slum who invited Kituo for the June edition. Kituo’s Advocacy, Governance and Community Partnerships coordinator Aimee Ongeso, Maureen Thuo and Ashioya Biko(Kituo Advocates) conducted the day-long training at the forum.mlahra22

Kituo used the forum to educate the participants about the history of Kituo and the work the organization does as well as update them on the status of the Legal Aid Act including aaccreditation of legal aid providers legal advice and assistance by paralegals and persons who may apply for legal aid. The participants also taken through Kituo’s M-Haki– a mobile legal aid platform through which the public can send in legal questions and get a response within 48 hours.The forum present an opportunity to share Kituo’s work with the youth including how we engage with communities together with a Q&A session for legal questions from the participants.


Kituo Cha Sheria



Grace Omuyaku (Center) receives her cheque from Kituo Advocate John Mwariri as Kituo’s Boniface Muinde looks on.

The story of Grace Omuyaku adds up to the many success stories that Kituo boasts of having successfully assisted its clients get justice.

Kituo cha Sheria (KITUO) is an organization that has for long been in the forefront in pursuing justice for the indigent in society. Since Grace was introduced to Kituo, she has been on a journey with the assistance of Kituo for the last seven years. The persistence on this journey has finally seen a smile back on her long forlorn face; and long may it continue.

What’s the Story…

Grace worked for Telecom Kenya as a personal secretary for over 20 years until 2006 when she and other employees approaching 50 years of age were retrenched. In December the same year, she was paid a lump sum amount of Ksh. 800,000 by the company (Telkom).

After consultation, Grace sought to invest the money in a Nairobi based company called NOSKCID (Africa) Asset Management Limited. Here, she was supposed to be receiving Ksh. 20,000 per month as interest from her investment for six month then she renews the investment upon wish.

“That only worked for a period of the first six month, then the first four month of the renewed investment, though through struggle,” she recalls.

Her encounter with Kituo cha Sheria.

Thereafter, the company went silent, never to deposit any more money to her account or even notify her of anything. It was during this ordeal, in 2009 when a friend of hers (Teresa, former client at Kituo) referred her to Kituo cha Sheria for legal assistance.

She remembers Kituo receiving her warmly and the first step was writing to the company seeking to resolve the matter out of court. These efforts proved futile as the company ignored the letter and the matter proceeded to court.

Since Grace could not afford raising court and related fees, Kituo helped her document a pauper application which succeeded. After going through the long court process the court ruled that Grace be paid a decree of Ksh. 879,852. The company did not honor this ruling either, to their shock, Grace and Kituo found out that the company had transferred all its assets to an unknown location. This meant that even auctioneering the company’s property was not a possibility. In 2015, the high court ordered that the directors of the company be summoned and when they appeared their lawyers claimed that the company had wound up. Instead the directors proposed to be paying Grace Ksh.50, 000 per month, starting May the same year only to do it for only one month and stopped.

March 2016, Kituo filed an application to the magistrate for notice to show cause why the director cannot be committed to civil jail or pay the amount and in June 15th, 2016, the court issued a warrant of arrest for the directors risking commitment to civil jail.

This signaled to the defendant (director) that things were getting worse and so a day later, on 20th June, 2016 he gave out a cheque of Ksh. 100,000 through Kituo lawyer, John Mwariri- defender of the poor-handed over to Grace Omuyaku, in the presence of another Kituo Officer Boniface Muinde at Kituo cha Sheria gardens. The defendant has further proposed with permission of court to be paying in installments until the whole amount now standing at Ksh. 1.6M is cleared.

Now that gives Grace a ray of hope and a smile on her face. She says that she hopes all will be well and gives a big thank you to Kituo cha Sheria for walking with her this long journey to see to it that justice prevails and the rights of those habitually trodden are upheld.


Kituo Cha Sheria



Fact Finding Mission- Meru G.K. Prison

meru GKPeople in prison are some of the most vulnerable in terms of access to justice; as part of Kituo’s Advocacy, Governance and Community Partnership Program’s goal of indigent and marginalized persons in Kenya having access to justice through legal aid and empowerment Kituo visited the Meru G.K. Prison for a fact finding mission.

On the 10th and 11th February, 2016 AGCP’s program officer Nasibo Abagaro visited the Meru GK Prison for consultative meetings with stakeholders to discuss court related challenges inmates face in accessing justice.

Some of the stakeholders we met included  the Officer in Charge, Human rights officer, Welfare officer, Documentation officer, Duty officer, Court officer, prisoners as well as those in remand .


Meru G.K. Prison has 1250 inmates in total, of which 900 are in remand and 350 convicted. According to a fact finding mission, some inmates have been in remand for 8 years still waiting for a decision from the Courts. An example is a Mr. Stanley Gichunge who was charged with murder and has remained in remand for 8 years.

According to findings, majority of remandees are accused of petty offences and are 510 in number, followed by 239 murder cases and 81 robberies with violence. Most of those that have been convicted had been charged with sexual offences.


The following are some of the court related challenges faced by Meru G.K. Prison in accessing justice;

  • Appeals delayed – According to the prison warders, appeals are delayed leading to more remandees in the prison. They noted that cases are many and files pile waiting hearing hence the delay.
  • Appeal fees are a challenge to many – Another challenge faced by the inmates is that most of them cannot even afford appeal fees which makes them stay in prison longer than usual.
  • Lost files – According to the warders, cases of lost files is common in Meru. This leads to most cases not being heard hence a challenge to accessing justice.
  • Most inmates are ignorant of their rights – They also noted that most inmates are ignorant when it comes to their rights. Most of them plead guilty even for offences they would be not guilty of not knowing they could defend themselves and their entitlement to a fair hearing.
  • Witnesses’ not appearing in court – Witness not appearing in court is another big challenge in the Meru Law court. This results to matters being adjourned and the more adjournments, the further the delays thus hindering access to justice.
  • No advocates trained as mediators – There are no advocates trained as mediators hence petty offences still proceed to court instead of applying alternative dispute resolution. According to the warders, if an advocate has been trained on mediation, not all petty cases will end up in court. This will then reduce the number of inmates and justice accessed earlier without courts intervention.
  • Limitations in access to information – most inmates expressed challenges in access to information after arrest. They complained that they are arrested even without explanations and when at the police station, they are charged with crimes they are not even fully aware of.
  • Mentions delays – according to them, most dates of mention in courts are delayed and this becomes a barrier in accessing justice.
  • State counsels not appearing before court – most state counsels are unwilling to represent clients and some don’t even appear in court leaving them stranded.
  • Longer period in remand – some inmates in remand complained of staying for many years in remand. Some explained that they have been in remand for up to 8 years and even more. Some of them find themselves there as a result of lost files and need external intervention in order for them to access justice.
  • Missing witness – Witness not appearing in court is another big challenge with the inmates. This result to matters being adjourned and the more adjournments, the longer the stay in prison. These delays hinder access to justice.


Kituo Cha Sheria.


‘Karibu Turkana Community Justice Centre’

Turk Pic“We must evaluate access to justice from the perspective of the poorest and most marginalized amongst us”

From the cradle of Mankind County of Turkana, Kituo Cha Sheria ended the year 2015 welcoming the Turkana Community Justice Centre to our family.

Led by the Executive Director Ms. Gertrude Angote, Kituo joined the Turkana community and their leaders on 18th December 2015 in Lokichar sub-county, Turkana County.

The noble endeavor that took place at the Kenya Assemblies of God Hall in Lokichar town   kicked off at around 10am with tunes from Ekisil Akide- ‘Peace from the South’, traditional dancers.

Opening of the Justice Centre was preceded by graduation of 27 Kituo trained community paralegals from across the vast Turkana county; Lodwar, Loima, Kapitur and Kainuk. The community paralegals underwent an intensive training on basics of paralegalism, Introduction to Law and the Bill of Rights, land laws and labour laws as well as alternative dispute resolution among other topics from 7th-17th of December, 2015. The training was conducted by Kituo officers Marcelino Thuku and Ashioya Biko joined by the Kamukunji Justice Centre Coordinator Ezekiel Njenga.

The community paralegals in Turkana (Lokichar) are expected to bring legal services closer to the community with support from local administrators and players in the justice sector to promote access to justice to the poor and marginalized.

Ricardo Lopetok, speaking on behalf of the graduates, gave a chronology of the journey travelled by the paralegals since 2013 leading up to their qualification and graduation on the December, 18.

He expressed the hope that the new paralegals will work closely with the local Catholic Church and the local administration to ensure the community members access justice.

He urged Kituo to continue walking with them on this journey of legal empowerement.

Fr. John Wabootsa of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) in the Diocese of Lodwar also praised the partnership of Kituo, the community and the church in establishing the justice centre primarily to promote justice and challenge oppressive structures in society. He noted all this work was to benefit the marginalized people in society.

The Executive Director Ms. Angote thanked the community for their warm welcome to Lokichar on behalf of Kituo and lauded the community for welcoming Kituo within their community. She explained Kituo’s journey through time from the beginning 43 years ago and indeed emphasized the opening of a Justice Centre in Lokichar was the ultimate achievement of access to justice for the poor and marginalized people.

Kituo’s main goal she said is to empower communities hence the importance of community paralegals in helping the people demand their rights and safeguard them especially with devolution now in the Constitution of Kenya. Community rights and legal empowerment are at the center of such initiatives as the Turkana Community Justice Centre. Extractives industry and land have increasingly become important to the Turkana Community and there’s need to safeguard community rights as a result of these emerging developments.

Aimee Ongeso, the programme coordinator Advocacy, Governance and Community Partnerships at Kituo thanked the partnership and goodwill extended to Kituo Cha Sheria in establishing the Turkana Community Justice Centre by various partners in the community including the church, community leaders including elected leaders and government administrative officers as well as the Judiciary through the Lodwar Law Courts.

In attendance included the Executive Officer at the Lodwar Law Court joseph Elimlim representing the Principal Margistrate, Lodwar; Raphael Loperito, Member of County Assembly-Lokichar; Lawrence Lotomon, MCA and chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee in the Turkana County Assembly; Lillyrose Akori, MCA; Kevin Akeru, Turkana County Assembly Clerk. Also present were Linus Kwemoi, Alexander Munyes from the Department of Children’s Services and the Assistant County Commissioner, Lokichar and the area chief together with sub-county administrators.


Kituo Cha Sheria.

ECOSOC Awards 2015

IMG-20151209-WA0000 (1)

During the 3rd Economic Social and Cultural Rights Lawyer of the Year Awards-2015, Mary Kanini Kitoo – a Legal Officer at Kituo Cha Sheria’s Mombasa Regional Office scooped the 2nd runners up award! She received the certificate and trophy at a colourful event on 7th December, 2015 held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi.

Mary Kitoo is celebrated and her sacrifice recognized as an outstanding Pro Bono Lawyer who has excelled in litigating on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The award is also a recognition for contribution made towards enhancing the jurisprudence, litigation and legal education on economic and social rights.

Mary Kitoo carries on this baton from Mr John Chigiti, Mr Anthony Mulekyo, Mr Elisha Ongoya and Ms. Carol Mburugu – who swept the awards in 2013.

The Constitution of Kenya, under Article 43, expressly recognizes Economic Social and Cultural Rights. This Article promotes the equality of all rights. In the same breath, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); and the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action state that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights further states in its preamble that “[…] civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from economic, social and cultural Rights in their conception as well as the universality and that satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights is a guarantee for the enjoyment of civil and political rights”

Kituo Cha Sheria joins other stakeholders to advocate for the awareness, and enhancement of capacities to litigate and adjudicate on economic social and cultural rights.

In the same breath with which civil and political rights are guaranteed, so are the economic social and cultural rights.

Kituo Cha Sheria-Legal Advice Centre.

Kisumu- Know Your Land Rights.


Kituo Cha Sheria from 7th to 11th July trained about 60 participants from Kogony and Kanyakwar in Kisumu County. The training was geared towards enlightening the residents on their land rights to enable them understand their land rights in regards to the upcoming Northern By-Pass road construction in Kisumu County that will affect some residents.
The participants were taken through the process of acquiring title deeds, doing land transfers and successions.

Some of the Questions Encountered included:-

Question 1: What is unlawful eviction?

  • Unlawful eviction means the permanent or temporary removal of persons from their home or land which they occupy against their will without the alternative of suitable forms of legal solutions.

Question 2: Who can be evicted?

  • Any person who takes control of land or structures without the express consent of the owner or without any right in law to take possession of such land or structure.

Question 3: What are the procedures that should be followed prior to evictions in respect to public land?

  • The National Land Commission is the one mandated with the task of conducting adequate consultations on the proposed evictions with the representative of the affected persons and families.
  • Consultation shall include holding of public hearings that may provide the affected persons an opportunity to;
  • Challenge the eviction decision
  • Present an alternative proposal
  • Articulate their demands and development priorities
  • Where an agreement cannot be reached on a proposed alternative among concerned parties, the National Land Commission may constitute a mediation committee comprising representatives of the National Land Commission and the affected families or communities with a view to finding an amicable solution.

Question 4: What are the procedures that should be followed before evictions are carried out in respect to private land?

  • If the owner is of the opinion that a person is in occupation of their land without consent, the owner may serve on that person a notice, of not less than three months before the date of the intended eviction.
  • The notice shall be in writing and in a language that is generally understood by the person being evicted.
  • In the case of a large group of persons, it should be published in at least two daily newspapers of nationwide circulation, and be displayed in not less than five strategic locations within the occupied land.

Question 5: What next after a person is served with an eviction notice?

  • A person may apply to court for relief against the notice. The court may, at its own discretion:
  • Confirm the notice and order the person to vacate
  • Cancel or make additions to the notice on such terms as it deems equitable and just
  • Suspend the operation of the notice for any period which the court shall determine
  • Order for compensation

Question 6: My parcel of land has a 99 year government lease with effect from 1st January 1920 and therefore the term will expire in 4 years’ time. How do I go about to renew or extend the lease?

  • A lease is an interest in land for a specific period of time and subject to payment of rent. Likewise there are also restrictions or conditions imposed by the lessor (land lord) to the lessee (tenant) on what he/she can do with the land. For example in the question above the person holding the 99 year lease is the lessee while the government is the lessor/land lord.
  • In Kenya the government grants leases for land especially in urban areas so as to safeguard community interests and have direct control of the use and development of land.
  • Examples of government lease terms are 33 year and 66 year leases for the former trust land areas – now Community Lands (native reserves in the colonial period). Such towns included Kapsabet, Kakamega, Mariakani, Embu and Kisii among others.
  • In this case one could be given a 33 year term and on expiry of the same they would be added 66 years to make a total of 99 years. However this was on condition that they fulfilled the conditions in the lease in terms of developments and payment of statutory fees like annual rent and rates.
  • The 99 year leases were granted on the former government land (crown land) and examples included towns like Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho, Nyahururu and Nyeri among others. For such land the government grants a 50 year term on expiry of the 99 year term.However a 99 year extension can be granted if the lessee proves that they will completely re-develop the land by putting up a new approved structure on the land.
  • The 999 year leases were granted by the former colonial government for agricultural farms in government land areas (crown land). Such farms are found in Nairobi and Rift Valley in what was famously known as the White Highlands. The 999 year leases being held by the former colonial farmers were transferred to the Africans who bought or were allocated the farms.
  • However, the National Land Policy recommends leases of not more than 99 years and consequently all such leases are converted by the government to 99 years with effect from 1st September 2010 after the promulgation of the constitution, 2010.

Faith Ochieng’ & Ong’uti Mang’are

Kituo Cha Sheria

Prison Paralegal Justice Centers in Kenya

Jacqueline Mwende- formerly at Kituo

Jacqueline Mwende- formerly at Kituo

  1. Can you briefly describe the innovation, in terms of the problem(s) it tries to solve and why is it necessary?

This project was mooted in response to the situation where the state only offers legal representation to people charged with capital offenses, leaving out others who are charged with other offenses. This together with the inability of most people in custody to understand the intricacies of the legal system results in miscarriages of justice as well as unnecessary congestion in the prisons. A fair hearing which is a constitutional right can only be possible when there is proper knowledge about the legal process by the persons in custody since majority of them are unrepresented. There is therefore a need for self-sustaining legal aid provision initiatives like this one to be embraced in as many prisons as possible.

  1. What makes your innovation unique?

This innovation is unique in that unlike most prison legal aid programmes that seek to sponsor lawyers or attach professional paralegals to the prisons; this one targets the beneficiaries themselves to be the drivers and the actors of the initiative. Thus the initiative achieves sustainability with minimal external support.

  1. What triggered the development of the innovation?

The innovation was triggered by many cases that were being brought to Kituo Cha Sheria about people who were in custody mainly because they lacked knowledge on the legal justice system and thus ended up staying in prison for longer than necessary or even for crimes they never committed. They did not have someone to advise them about their rights and the process in general. Hiring of lawyers was expensive and Kituo Cha Sheria did not have enough personnel hence the need to innovate the prison paralegal project.

  1. Which persons and organisations were involved in the development and what role did they play?

Although the project was initiated by Kituo Cha Sheria, the prison authorities and the paralegals operate it with minimal technical support from Kituo Cha Sheria. The first stop for every prisoner entering the prison gates for the first time is usually the paralegal office (which is manned by the paralegals) whereby their case is looked into and advice given accordingly.

  1. What kind of resistance have you encountered and how have you overcome it?

This innovation has not received resistance from the target group – the prisoners. Indeed if it were possible, they all want to be paralegals! However, the project has been slow to replicate since the prison authorities are firm believers of status quo and sometimes view the project with scepticism.

  1. How did you make the goals realistic and attainable, and when will quick wins be available?

Shimo La Tewa is the best practice of this project and has run for the last five years and gets better every year. As a prototype, the initial idea was to target the prisons that have large numbers of inmates. It was realised that it was necessary to consider extending the project to women’s prisons although they do not hold as many inmates as the men prisons. Later on we encouraged the collective justice advocacy of issues affecting the prisoners which translates to developments in the legal system. A case in point is the landmark case on prisoners’ right to vote, the ongoing challenging of the death penalty and the discrimination by the sexual offenses act on the basis of gender.

  1. Will the innovation affect other organisations in the chain and if that is the case, how will it affect them?

The innovation could be perceived as taking over criminal lawyers work…but that aside this innovation could be the break-through for organisations that provide legal aid and have the mission to promote access to justice.

  1. How was the development funded and what were reasons for the financing organisation?

Initially the project was not funded and advocates volunteered their time and expertise to work with the paralegals until UNDP- Amkeni Wakenya came into the picture and provided a grant to capacity build the paralegals, equip the justice centre and initiate the process of replication of the project in two other prisons.

  1. Can you name 3 to 5 characteristics of the innovation that are most essential to make it work?
  • Volunteerism – by the paralegals and volunteer lawyers to the program.
  • Self-sustainability- because of the minimal costs involved.
  • Collaboration -with the prison authorities.
  • Ownership- by beneficiaries.

10.How do you measure whether it is a successful innovation?

Monthly reports on the number of inmates given advice, appeals launched, applications made, letters submitted to the courts. We also track the number of acquittals, discharges and reduced sentences. 

Each paralegal has a record of the number of cases they have handled and their outcome. This number is used during the Prison Paralegal of The Year Award to appreciate the most hard-working paralegal in the prison.

  1. How many people or organisations benefit from this innovation now?

The three prisons benefiting currently from this innovation host a population of about 5,000 inmates but this is just the beginning.

  1. How many people or organisations could potentially benefit your innovation now and in the future? Can or will the innovation be used internationally and how do you overcome cultural differences?

This innovation could be reflected in all 93 prisons in Kenya which host over 55,000 prisoners currently (this is the number in penal institutions including pre-trial detention). Since the project is confined within the prison environment, it has no potential aspect that could bring about cultural clash.

  1. Can you quantify the financial benefits?

This project is institutionalized within the prison so it saves costs for accessing legal aid for prisoners and also minimising the operational costs of organisations/entities supporting such initiatives – mostly minimal technical assistance is needed.

  1. Is the innovation financially viable and sustainable and if yes, how?

This project is financially viable and sustainable since it blends in and becomes part of the numerous undertakings in the prisons – this is together with the vocational and formal education programmes run in all prisons in Kenya. The innovation has become one of such undertakings in the prisons.

  1. Did you receive any recognition?

Our project has been recognised by the President of the Supreme Court (The Chief Justice) of Kenya as one of the indicators of the fact that Kenya is moving towards the right direction in access to justice.

  1. What lessons did you learn along the way that could be useful to others?

It is wise to have inmates serving longer sentences to serve as paralegals since the knowledge and skills required for this type of confined paralegalism is perfected with time.

Getting an acquittal is not an end to itself and therefore there should be a follow up after prison and integration programme for former prisoners back into society. This is a challenge we have been grappling with as supporters of this innovation.

This interview with Jackline Mwende from Kituo cha Sheria-Legal Advice Centre first appeared on “Reinventing the Rules” Blog and provides great insight into the unique ways paralegals are providing legal aid to prisoners in Kenya.

Kituo restores the dwindling hopes of desperate Mercy Njeri…

njeri final“Kituo is like the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-35 NIV Bible, they rescued me from a scratch, they stabilized my dwindling hopes.” These were words genuinely articulated by Mercy Njeri Mwangi as she receives the order from Kituo Lawyer, Simon Kimondolo issued at the Nairobi Environment and Land Court (ELC). The order that guaranteed her ownership of her forcefully sold plot was granted by Judge Mary M. Gitumbi on April, 10, 2015. Mercy Njeri through Kituo’s assistance filed a case on January, 23, 2014. Her story and encounters with Kituo Cha Sheria unfolds as follows;
About her case…
So as to attain Justice and what is rightfully yours, one has to be patient and persistent. Mercy Njeri was married to Peter Mwangi Muchoki in December 1986 and they were blessed with three children. At the existence of their marriage, through their great exertion, they jointly bought a plot from the City Council of Nairobi whereof they constructed 12 houses, lived on some and rented out the others for their income.
Sometimes in 2008, their marriage began experiencing turbulence and thus they separated. It is during this time that the then husband started mistreating the family and even assaulting her. In the year 2010, Mary complained at the Chief’s office that Mwangi was collecting the rent from all rooms and spending all of it without giving the family anything for their basic needs.
The Chief and the area leaders arbitrated on the matter whereby the parties agreed to divide equally the plot and each to have 6 rooms to be collecting rent from. Mary was therefore able to get an income of Kshs 8,300/= per month from the houses she was collecting rent and which went a great mile in assisting her and the children meet their basic needs.
In 2011, Mary got an accident and was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital. During her hospitalization, Mwangi took advantage of the situation and sold the entire plot including Mary’s 6 rooms to Edward Mwangi Macharia who was their neighbor. Mary tried to stop the deal from her hospital bed but she could not. Macharia assumed ownership of the plot and started collecting rent from all the 12 houses from November 2011 and even changed the ownership documents at the Nairobi City County to reflect him as the owner. Still groaning in hospital, Mary sent her elder son to go and check, hoping the then husband could even show mercy to the son. The son came back mesmerized and only uttered “Mum, all is gone the neighbour is collecting the rent, he says the plot we have been collecting the rent from belongs to him and I cannot find daddy!”
At this moment in life if you were Mary what would you do? When all is gone and nothing left to keep her going with the children who needed clothes, food, shelter and school fees. In crutches, having nothing to even settle her hospital bill, she was disillusioned!
Her encounter with Kituo Cha Sheria…
Embittered and all hopes vanishing, Mary did not know what to do; she decided to seek legal assistance on the matter of the accident. A police officer had earlier proposed to try and get assistance from Kituo Cha Sheria. She came to Kituo as was directed, very optimistic to get help. She was received and directed to Kituo Gardens waiting to be attended to. This is where she overheard a conversation by other clients at the waiting shed; the client whom she did not know was telling his fellow how Kituo rescued his property from a grabber who used his wealth and money to bribe every avenue just to own his small piece of land.
Mary felt this is an opportunity to grab, “I must tell whoever will attend to me my predicament,” she said to herself.
She met Nathan Kivungi and Simon Kimondolo who derived two matters from her situation; that which concerns the accident and another on the selling of the plot. Mary did not have money at all so Kituo assisted her apply to be allowed to sue as a pauper (an impoverished person) on the matter that involves her houses and the order to that effect was issued in 2013.
Later Kituo assisted her in filing the ELC case on January, 23, 2014 and Kituo lawyers represented her in Court following up the matter to the latter in ensuring justice is granted.

The Judgement.

The matter was fully heard and the judgment delivered on 10th April 2015. The judge gave the following orders:
i. That the plaintiff is entitled to half share of the suit property being the plot.
ii. General damages for trespass in the sum of Ksh. 100,000/=
iii. Lost income of Ksh. 8,300/= per month from November 2011 until payment in full.
iv. Edward Mwangi Macharia is given 30 days from the date of the judgment to vacate the Mary’s half share, 6 rooms of the Plot
v. Interests at court rates.

Mary was so happy to get back her lawful property and in addition a total sum of Ksh. 448,600 thus Ksh. 348,600 as compensation for lost income since November 2011 to April 2015 (42months) and further Ksh. 100,000 being general damages for trespass. Further, the Judgment in effect has restored her ownership meaning that as from the month of May 2015 onwards, she will be collecting her usual rent of Ksh. 8,300 per month or more from her 6 houses.
“I am grateful to Kituo Cha Sheria; you have restored hopes to the hopeless,” she acclaimed to Simon Kimondolo, Kituo’s lawyer who represented her throughout the Court sessions as she collected the Courts order.
Kituo Cha Sheria, “We Care for Justice”

By Nandia Paul- RCD