Contra Nocendi Cameroon with the support of the National Commission of Human Rights and Freedom (NCHRF) Southwest regional office, organised a workshop entitled “Facilitating Access to Justice Through Legal Aid – Educating Local Communities on the Possibilities for Obtaining Legal Aid” at Mile 14 Dibanda a small rural locality in Buea, the capital of the South West Region of Cameroon. The workshop was also directly supported by Contra Nocendi International. The workshop was in line with Contra Nocendi’s advocacy objective, to promote and protect human rights and to ensure that knowledge on human rights is widely shared amongst populations. The purpose of the workshop was to inform and educate the people of Mile 14 Dibanda community on the possibility and availability of Legal Aid in the Cameroonian Legal system and to educate them on the process for obtaining such Legal Aid.
Participants were given a training on the right to legal aid. The curriculum included Law No 2009/004 of 14 April 2009 on the organisation of Legal Aid in Cameroon, including eligibility criteria, the processes for obtaining aid and available channels for guidance. Important emphasis was made on pro bono which is the one of the roles of Contra Nocendi Cameroon Legal Aid Clinic in Buea and how they could benefit from these services provided by most, if not all law firms. Participants were informed of the importance of pro bono work in the protection and promotion of human rights and were encouraged to always speak out and ask for help when in need so that they could benefit from the pro bono work which some if not all lawyers are inclined to do.
The workshop was participative, with many questions and interventions from participants which truly illustrated the level of understanding they gained from the workshop as well as the importance of the topic of legal aid for their communities. By the end of the workshop the participants were in the position to use this information to help themselves. The Chairman of the village council expressed satisfaction and was very impressed by the commitment of Contra Nocendi Cameroon. He urged the team to come back with such good information any time. Overall the participants were satisfied with the knowledge gained and considered the workshop as time well spent. One of the participants said he was in turn going to organise an informative session at his church community and small neighbourhood in the village to tell the people about legal aid and how to benefit from it.
The workshop was run by an experienced team of human rights defenders and advocates including the Executive Director of Contra Nocendi Cameroon (Barrister Gilbert Ajebe), the Rapporteur at the National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms (Mr Ekeke Ndome), Contra Nocendi Cameroon Project Coordinator (Blaise Chamango) and Advocacy Associate (Rosaline Anoma). Brochures were provided to participants which included basic information about the law on legal aid and contact information for Contra Nocendi Cameroon whose doors were declared open to persons in need of assistance.
We wish to thank the local community and its leadership for their hospitality and support in setting up the workshop. We also wish to thank the staff of the NCHRF for their support with running the workshop and their willingness to share their expertise and experience for the benefit of the workshop participants. We look forward to further impactful collaborations in the future.
Following the workshop, Contra Nocendi Cameroon staff continues to be contacted by participants of the workshop seeking assistance. The reaction and feedback from participants serves as a clear reminder of the impact such educative activities can have on improving knowledge on human rights. Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International are in the process of planning future training sessions throughout the Southwest region. In the future Contra Nocendi plans to undertake more initiatives such as this to ensure that persons who suffer prejudices can obtain redress.