KIGALI - A Government program to provide access to free legal aid has so far covered 12 districts, according to Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama.
The government hopes to set up Access Justice Bureaus at district level country- wide by 2012 to ensure the legal aid reaches all.
The move aims at preventing high costs that may deny people access to justice. People will also no longer need to travel long journeys from villages to towns where these services are mostly found.
Earlier on during the launch of The Legal Aid Week that aimed at giving free legal assistance to detained juveniles country-wide, Karugarama said that only five districts — Rulindo, Rwamagana, Nyanza, Rusizi and Karongi — already had Access Justice Bureaus.
In a telephone interview with The Sunday Times, Karugarama said that seven more districts have now acquired the Bureaus.
“We have established more Access Justice Bureaus in seven districts including Gicumbi, Musanze, Rubavu, Ngororero, Nyaruguru, Nyagatare and Kirehe,” Karugarama said.
He pointed out that despite the challenges involved in implementing the programme, he is optimistic it will meet the deadline.
“Since we have managed to set-up 12 bureaus before end of the year, despite challenges, by 2012 the remaining 18 districts will have been covered.”
According to the Minister, the program faces shortage of funds and qualified people to make the bureaus effective
He added that each bureau is occupied by two officials; a coordinator and an assistant.
The two work with the Local Government, Civil society and justice sector stakeholders.
Explaining the values of the bureaus to the society, Karugarama said, “Preventive legal aid will be accessed since these bureaus will provide information on legal structures and procedures.”
The minister had earlier noted that people waste a lot of time and money over cases which could have been easily solved by local authorities due to lack of legal information and advice.