The quest to establish an African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice was to develop a place, that will not only serve as a memorial to the struggles for social justice of Africa’s people, but will serve to carry forward the traditions of African and international practices and thought-leadership in how best to craft a vision of a society that upholds human dignity and affords justice beyond the narrow legal conceptions to the most vulnerable sectors of society.
It was therefore the intention that the Centre will be designed to serve as a landing base for comparative learning for primarily African legal empowerment programmes as well as international programmes. The Centre will continuously play a role in hosting international exchange guests from collaborating countries and/or institutions.
It was also envisaged that whilst epitomizing Africa’s quest for justice for all, the Centre will be internationalist in character as it seeks to celebrate and bring lessons and experiences from efforts in other parts of the world that have gone the furthest mile in keeping the flag of the legal empowerment and access to justice flying, with specific bias and emphasis on African indigent knowledge about justice and redress.
A special and dedicated space will be created for African legal empowerment programmes to share their lessons and the significant developments of community based paralegal programmes in their own countries.
In order to concretise this idea, revered Human rights activists who have been involved in empowering marginalized communities in promoting access to justice on the African continent came together to put in place a Centre, which will be later called the “African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice.” (ACE-AJ)
From informal meetings, these activists moved to formalizing the concept by signing a Memorandum of understanding between the organisations called the “founding members” and the organisation that would host the secretariat of the Centre, incubating it for some years.
The initial meetings happened between Sierra Leone, South Africa and Malawi who later decided to associate Rwanda and Kenya.
These organisations were:
- The Paralegal Advisory Service Institute from Malawi represented by Mr Clifford Misiska
- Timap for Justice from Sierra Leone represented by Simeon Koroma, ESQ
- Kituo cha Sheria from Kenya represented by Ms. Gertrude Angote
- The Legal Aid Forum from Rwanda represented by Maître Andrews Kananga
- A representative from South Africa coming from the Association of Community Advice of Offices of South Africa (ACAOSA).
- The National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (Nadcao) from South Africa represented by the late Ms. Nomboniso Nangu Maqubela who was in fact the vision career. Nadcao would host the secretariat.
A decision was made to launch the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice (ACE-AJ) in Kigali-Rwanda during a Panafrican conference promoting the collaboration between the formal judiciary system and community justice institutions.
During the preparatory meeting that took place in Malawi in March 2017, a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the five organisations and Nadcao.
Unfortunately, Ms Nomboniso Nangu passed after the preparatory meeting, and she was not able to live to see the launch of the ACE-AJ in Kigali in August 2017.
After the Kigali conference where the ACE-AJ was launched, Nadcao and ACAOSA merged in a new organisation called Centre for the Advancement of Community Advice Offices of south Africa (CAOSA), which now represents South Africa.