A survey conducted by the Legal Aid Forum indicates that over 1,370 paralegals operating under various NGOs working with the judiciary have helped the population access legal services across the country.
The Coordinator of Legal Aid Forum, Andrews Kananga, said that paralegals have aided residents’ access to justice, especially those in rural areas.
“Paralegals have played a significant part in bridging the gap between the population and legal entities, which has paid off by promoting quick and efficient justice delivery,” Kananga said.
“Currently, Haguruka Association has the highest number of paralegals with 383, followed by Avega, the umbrella body for widows of the Genocide with 228.”
Kananga added that the Legal Aid Forum is in the process of recruiting and training more residents who can operate as paralegals so that they can be deployed across the country.
“If you compare the population and the number of advocates we have in Rwanda, you find that we have a lack of lawyers. Trained paralegals will therefore sensitize the public to where the nearest advocates are and also educate them on how courts operate,” he added.
In line with the definition adopted in 2008 by participants to a conference on Access to Justice and Legal Aid in Africa, hosted in Rwanda, paralegals are persons usually without a law degree but possessing relevant skills and training to provide legal advice and assistance to the public.
According to the report of the survey, the number of paralegals has increased significantly since the survey was carried out last year.
“Some associations working with paralegals were not integrated in this survey, either because their programmes were not yet fully operational at the time of data collection or because they were not yet members of the Legal Aid Forum,” read part of the report.