Rwanda: Experts push for better access to legal assistance for vulnerable people in Africa

KIGALI – Judicial experts on Wednesday called on African governments to help make legal assistance more accessible to vulnerable groups across the continent.

They made the call here in Kigali at a conference on collaboration between the judiciary and community justice institutions on access to justice in Africa.

The three-day conference opened on Tuesday in the Rwandan capital.

The event focuses on influencing attitudes and behaviors across the entire value-chain of justice delivery, from the community to the highest courts of the land, in order to foster greater synergy, mutual support, and collaboration.

Bernardo Espanhola Deve, a community judge from Maputo, Mozambique, told a panel discussion that access to justice is costly for the poor people and there is a need to establish a fund that would cater for them.

“Access to justice remains a work in progress in Africa, and many vulnerable communities face uphill task to access improved and fair justice,” he told the panel on “Empowerment of the poor and marginalized people to access justice and realize Human Rights.”

“Access to justice for all citizens is a cornerstone of social and economic development,” Deve added.

The meeting attracted participants from more than 15 countries across the continent and beyond.

Philip Sabuni, national coordinator of Paralegal Alliance Network in Zambia, said millions of people in Africa are trapped in insecure jobs without legal protection and sufficient funds to hire lawyers.

“African governments should help consider a fund that would cater for poor people who can’t afford access to justice,” he said. “For instance, the phenomenon of large-scale land acquisitions in Africa for agriculture and industrial investments have left many traditional land-owners landless without compensation.”

According to him, the poorest community members are often the most vulnerable to such situations because they are unable access legal protection.

Participants at the conference will also discuss ways to incorporate technology in court processes to enhance access to fair, quick case hearing and protection of human rights.

The meeting will also assess the possibility of launching an African Center of Excellence for Access to Justice. Xinhua

Source: Angola Press News Agency