Pouring New Wines in Old Wineskins
State Capture, Contestations and Conflicting Understanding of the Paralegalism in Kenya with the Advent of the Legal Aid Act 2016
Keywords:Paralegalism, access to justice, legal empowerment, power, formalization, recognition, state capture
Community paralegals have played a critical role in promoting access to justice for indigent communities in Kenya. Civil society organizations such as Kituo cha Sheria-Legal Advice Centre pioneered the use of the paralegal approach. Paralegals live within the communities that they serve. They respond swiftly to injustices at grassroots levels. Since the inception of the movement in 1973, paralegals have been trained, mentored and supported by civic actors. With time, the movement organically grew establishing informal structures for improved coordination, support, capacity building and outreach. Community and or Social Justice Centres were founded to operate as “first-aid legal centres” in informal settlements, urban, peri-urban and rural areas. Despite their interventions, community paralegals were not legally recognized. They operated in a legal vacuum and were illegitimate legal aid providers. Sustained advocacy resulted in the enactment of the Legal Aid Act 2016, which recognized paralegals viewed as legal aid service providers. The Legal Aid Act has however redefined the concept of paralegalism shrouding it with restrictions and regulations that threaten the historical gains made towards legal empowerment. The article explores the contestations of paralegalism as it has been known before the Legal Aid Act 2016 and the consequences of formalization and legal recognition.
- 30-07-2021 (2)
- 01-06-2021 (1)
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