In an endeavour to live up to its objectives of improving the free access to law and making it easier for all LII’s coordinated under it, AfricanLII through its Coordinators have managed to successfully bring together from four Countries namely, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda for training which lasted for three days from the 30th June to the 2nd of August 2012.
It was held at the AfricanLii offices in Rosebank Johannesburg where Africanlii together with Kenya Law reports have an aim of formalizing their organizations training programmes and work practices. This pilot training was mainly to bring together the now developed Lii’s to share ideologies and practices with the recently established Lii’s so work flow within these Legal Institutions could also develop. AfricanLii is a project of SALC and in coordinating Lii’s in Africa also subscribes to the Declarations to free access to law. The twenty (20) participants were able to gather information in a very tight three days schedule running from 0900hrs to 1630hrs each day.
Presentations were mainly from AfricanLii and Kenya Law Reports [KLR], however the newly formed Lii’s namely ULii, ZambiaLii and ZimLii were able to share on their experiences and challenges met in the performance their duties. Tererai Mafukidze of AfricanLii gave a historical background on the Access to legal Information and Law Reporting in Africa alongside Esther Onchama who is Deputy CEO of the National Council for Law Reporting in Kenya also gave an insightful presentation on this subject especially on the position in Kenya. They in collaboration emphasized on the proper identification of partners for a Lii to grow without much struggle. Dedication and compliance with the already placed procedures in our different states will also play key role as change could never be accepted and achieved instantly, He said. He further urged participants to always bear in mind that Lii’s primary and public duty is to make legal information freely accessible and to embrace every from of change taking place for significant development.
He also advised that good development will be determined by achievements as they show progress in your mandate even though the interests of the state may seem to have been shifted from the actual goals where distribution of resources is concerned. Instead of the state making availability of apparatus for the justice system in order to work efficiently the state has instead focussed on building statuses for those working for the justice system and has failed to provide the necessary and relevant tools. This has made the state of Law reporting in Africa a deployable one, he said.
While Kenya on the other hand has managed to manoeuvre around the beaurocracy and have achieved as they resemble the best model of what a self-sustained Lii should be like. Dating back from 1963 when it gained its independence from being a British colony, Kenya law reports as it is called has merged with the Law Reform Commission and together under one roof agreed to work together to achieve the apparent success of the organisation. They work together to do all the law reporting tasks, both on hard and soft copies, i.e statutes and electronic publishing on the website. Even though they do have competition from other Private Publishers of Legal Information but their unity, dedication, loyalty and the support from the government has not deterred them from engaging with their work and aiming for high quality products.
Through Esther Onchama, Kenya Laws has expressed how they touch base with the public as they regard it as their major stakeholder since the law they publish benefit them. They thrive to ensure the populace is satisfied with their services, by engaging with them and constantly informing them on the latest publication and emphasizing the importance of their inputs where development is concerned. They also emphasized upon us how adjudication is the cornerstone of every justice system and that such laws as brought by justice can only be in effect if they are published hence the role of law reporting.
We had Thomas Bruce who is the Director of Legal Information Institute (LII) from Cornell Law School in Canada who through Skype gave a lecture to participants on how they can go about to ensure sustainability of their legal information websites. He mentioned that Legal Information websites do not only require sustainability financially but its sustainability can mostly be measured by the results which only manifests long after the finances have come and gone. While mentioning the difficulty in the sustaining of Lii’s he did however point out the values depicted by a well sustained Lii. He mentioned three Values, Economic, Social and Organizational Values. See More of Tom on http://blog.law.cornell.edu/tbruce
For social values Lii’s are expected to know their audience, who they are and what they want. Engage in surveys to ensure that, which is difficult but crucial. For Organizational values, Lii’s are expected to conduct regular swot analysis, strengthen key relationships and a strong leadership structure. For Economic values, Lii’s should not only focus on the revenue aspect but should be objective driven and know that not all Grants are to be received and same should apply to jobs and activities. He emphasised how these three values work hand in hand for bigger and clearer picture.
Anne Assugah from Kenya Law reports also presented on Law Revision in Kenya. She mentioned in detail how they managed to compile the laws of Kenya and covered the gaps in years which had not been reported. She showed how the initial filling system of hard copies which is common in many of our jurisdictions, was inefficient and made law to be hardly accessed. They had to engage the law society, the law school, and attorney general’s chambers to help solve the scourge. Through coordination each wing was convinced on the whole idea and students were engaged for the scanning and proof reading retyping of the old judgment bringing them to conform to modern standards. It was a worthwhile project which makes Kenya to be up to date with their law publications and the support they are getting from other arms of government like the legislature and the executive which are also relying on them for publication of Acts of Parliament and The Treaties between the Kenyan Government and Other Countries. See www.kenyalaw.org.
Other facilitators were Mariya Badeva- Bright who is also coordinator of AfricanLii gave training on the content development and editorial Practices. This has to do with the uniform standards that have to be complied with when content is being collected and disseminated onto the website. She also talked on Legal policy considerations with respect to free access to law. Kerry Anderson alongside Martin Mbui from Kenya Law Reports both spoke on the Technologies for Law reporting. Monica Achode and Linda Ochieng were other speakers and they spoke on Legal research training. See more on Kerry and Mariya by visiting www.africanlii.org
The workshop was really a worthwhile effort especially in introducing and acquainting the recently formulated Lii’s of Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia on their mandates and expectations and how they should go on to carry their work.