President Koroma of Sierra Leone has strongly committed his government’s support to legal aid and the work of paralegals. He made the announcement during the formal launch of the legal aid board that Namati helped bring into existence in Freetown on Thursday 19th November 2015.
Namati and other civil society groups advocated for the passage of the Legal Aid Act in 2012. One of the most progressive in the world, the act fully recognises community paralegals as justice service providers in the country.
During the launch ceremony, speaker after speaker made mention of paralegals and lavished praise on them for the good work they do in brining justice to the people in Sierra Leone. The act not only recognizes paralegals, but makes provision for the government to support at least one paralegal in all 149 chiefdoms in the country.
Advocating for the inclusion of paralegals in the aid act was a challenge; Namati faced enormous opposition from legal practitioners, judges and other members of the judiciary. These same people are now praising the work paralegals do in improving access to justice.
The Board is an independent, non-profit making organization that is mandated to provide, administer, coordinate and monitor the provision of the legal aid in civil and criminal cases. It accredits all legal aid service providers. The executive secretary of the board stated that the biggest challenge is a lack of adequate resources to support lawyers and Paralegals in the execution of their work as legal aid providers.
In the President’s keynote address, he committed his government’s support for the effective functioning of the
legal aid board; he said he had made his commitment to improve the justice system during his election campaign and he is ready to fulfill his promise.
Prominent in the launching ceremony was the pronouncement of the president as an Honorary Paralegal by the Executive Secretary and the Minister of Information.
Other speakers at the occasion included the DFID country representative, the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice, the chairperson of the Board, the President of the Bar association, Minister of information and the Executive secretary of the board. The occasion included traditional Sierra Leonian singing and dancing.