18 May 2012

Tanzania: Comprehensive Legal Aid Legislation On the Cards

TANZANIA will, in the near future, put in place a legal framework to serve as a criterion for eligibility to legal aid and supervision of legal aid services, Deputy Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Ms Angellah Kairuki, has disclosed.

While launching a funding mechanism for legal aid dubbed "Legal Services Facility" (LSF) in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, Ms Kairuki said the government has formed a task-force which is currently involved in the preparatory process towards enactment of comprehensive legal aid legislation.

The government of Denmark has committed US $10 million (approximately 15bn/-) towards LSF which will be channeled to organisations providing legal aid in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar."The task-force, which comprises members from the government and legal aid providers, has been meeting several times under the chairmanship of the Legal Aid Committee of the University of Dar es Salaam," she explained.

According to the deputy minister, the task-force is now conducting an in-depth study on national, regional and international legal aid and regulatory frameworks regarding legal aid legislation and practices in Uganda, Malawi, Kenya as well as Zambia and South Africa.

Ms Kairuki added further that the government is working towards enacting a law that would recognize and regulate paralegals in the country."Essentially, the recognition of paralegals will increase access to justice to a larger section of the people. This is due to the fact that most paralegals are persons with elementary education and can be found even in rural areas," she noted.

The Deputy Minister also showered praises on organizations that have been providing legal aid services to vulnerable members of the society namely widows, orphans and people with disabilities among others.The Ambassador of Denmark to Tanzania, Mr Johnny Flento, said Tanzania still faces considerable challenges in terms of geographic coverage of legal aid, especially in rural areas.

"Legal aid in Tanzania is thus almost solely directed at civil cases while legal aid for criminal cases is rarely provided," the envoy said.The Chairperson of LSF's Governing Board, Ms Joaquine De-Mello, said the facility is not a new idea in achieving access to justice but rather an intervention by the government of Denmark to complement what has been done by various stakeholders.

LSF Fund Manager, Kees Groenendijk, said the facility was created to channel funding, on an equal opportunity basis, to organizations involved in the provision of legal aid and paralegal services on Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.The manager also noted that the facility will also "enable these organizations assist the poor and vulnerable creatures to claim their rights, redress grievances and protect their fundamental rights."

The main objective of LSF, according to Groenendijk, was to promote and protect human rights for all, particularly for poor women, children and men and the vulnerable, including people living with HIV/AIDs.

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