Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to both formal and informal Court System.
The main aim of legal aid is to provide and ensure access to justice thus upholding the legal principles of equality before the law, the right to legal representation and the right to fair trial. The Legal Aid and Empowerment Program in NAO (Northern Advocacy organization) is driven by the need to provide assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged persons in society to enable them understand and protect their rights. Majority of people in Northern Kenya live outside the protection of the law mostly because of poverty, stigma and ignorance. Additionally, the ability of communities in Northern Kenya to participate in the government’s agenda to alleviate poverty by fostering economic growth and improving essential services like health, education and water is compromised owing to lack of knowledge of the law hence low accountability.
Due to economic situation of the people in North Eastern Kenya, legal aid is a valuable option for those who are in search of legal advice and representation. There is need for an Independent Legal Aid (independent from government) in NEP of Kenya due to numerous complaints against illegal and inhumane acts carried out by successive regimes. Indeed most of the issues the Local community has is centered on complaints against government agencies and officials on a wide ranging and diverse issues: Registration and issuance of ID Cards; illegal detention; illegal seizure of property.In Northern Kenya, a marginalized and poverty stricken area, residents have acute deficit in understanding and knowledge of the law and legal procedure. This has more often than not led to individuals resorting to illegal means to settle disputes and also at times to tolerate and encounter numerous illegal and unlawful behaviors and actions of the Government, its agencies and officers. The low level of legal literacy has ensured that Northern Kenya and its inhabitants are unable to properly exercise and gain access to their rights specifically those enshrined in chapter 4.
This has led to arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, unlawful punishments/sentences, curtailed rights and fundamental freedoms.