[Member Spotlight] Alliance of Local Communities in Hardship Areas (ALCHA)

This month’s member spotlight features the work of Alliance of Local Communities in Hardship Areas (ALCHA): an alliance that empowers pastoralist communities through utilising resources and promoting sustainable development.

What is your organization’s mission?

We facilitate sustainable development of the pastoralist communities through access to quality basic education, civic education and democratic governance. We also address integrated health and nutrition management, environmental conservation, peace building and conflict resolution and entrepreneurship development.

What legal empowerment issues do you address at ALCHA?

We mostly look into the lack of information and awareness of the community’s most basic rights, which makes the pastoralists easy targets in the denial and deprivation of their rights by officials and individuals or groups that are more powerful than them.We address police harassment and brutality, violent inter-clan conflicts, domestic and sexual violence and unequal treatment of men and women generally.

The fact that many victims are unaware of the law and the legal institutions that could protect them against such abuses of power means that in practice impunity reigns. In turn, this means that these harmful practices – harmful to the individual victims, but also harmful to the urgently needed economic and social development generally- can continue unabated. For the formal justice system itself this situation means that, so far, the system has failed to make any meaningful difference in most people’s lives especially in the rural pastoralist area of Moyale. For them, there is virtually no access to formal justice. This present state of affairs also means that a meaningful participation of the population in democratic governance remains a distant dream in Moyale.

How are you using legal empowerment to address these issues?

ALCHA formed and trained community-based paralegals in 2013 in Marsabit County of Kenya and provided them with legal first aid kits including badges, paralegal journals, T-shirts and bags. ALCHA conducts legal aid clinics on a quarterly basis. Public forums on legal awareness have been conducted in all sub-counties. Activities of paralegals in dispensing justice to the poor and the marginalized were facilitated through drafting basic legal documents including but not limited to plaints or charges, defence, affidavits, notice of motion, certificate of urgency, agreements, letter of administration, etc. The organization has also distributed user-friendly IEC materials on access to justice by the poor and the marginalized.

ALCHA is actively engaged in child protection activities (juvenile justice), referral of cases to higher justice institutions such as FIDA-Kenya, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Commission on Administrative Justice, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and the Kenya Human Rights Commission, among others. ALCHA carried out training of women, youths and people with disabilities on their Economic, Social and Cultural (ECOSOC) rights. The organization also trained communities on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and facilitating reconciliation dialogues to resolve disputes at village levels. Court Users Committee (CUC) and Area Advisory Council (AAC) meetings on child rights and protection were facilitated. The organization conducts prison inspection and provides legal advice to remandees.

What strategies do you employ to ensure the long-term sustainability of your work?

ALCHA’s analysis of poverty is based on the framework of capabilities and entitlements and on the power relationships’ perspective. Increasing the capacities of individuals and institutions to challenge the unfair distribution of resources to guarantee their entitlements and influence public policy becomes an integral part of the development and poverty eradication process. Basic needs are deemed as basic rights and not privileges. Basic rights find their expression in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that explicitly states the social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of all human beings. This implies that a pre-condition for a rights-based approach to the elimination of poverty, would be a form of governance that is transparent, accountable to people, knowledgeable and engaged with human rights.

The existing networks such as Moyale/Sololo paralegal network and peace mediators are already operating on voluntary basis to ensure their respective communities are secure and better served. These structures shall continue serving the community. The capacity building workshops provided for the youths, women, community local leaders, people with disabilities and the minorities will have a lasting impact as it leads to attitudinal and behavioral change of the target groups. The knowledge imparted to the target groups will remain to reshape the society. The various fora on human rights and new devolved government, for women, youths, people with disabilities and minorities will continue working as their skills, knowledge and competency levels has been improved to stand on their own. The various primary stakeholders, line ministries and other human rights, justice and governance networks will replicate the imparted knowledge in their own organizations and institutions thereby creating good atmosphere for multiplier effect.

ALCHA strategies focus on putting people at the center of influence systems, practices, policies and structures to ensure the government’s responsiveness to the needs of people and equitable distribution of resources. Poverty therefore is seen beyond deprivations of income to include issues of access and control of resources, representation, participation and discrimination. ALCHA will therefore continue to work towards formulation of rights based poverty programmes.

Do you have any advice for other organizations about achieving scale?

The paralegal program is easily scalable to other pastoralist districts in Marsabit county but requires funding. The organization is writing proposals so that the program can be replicated elsewhere.

I’d also recommend:

  • Connecting community paralegals to local structures such as Court Users Committee (CUC) creates good working relationships with court personnel and makes it easier to support and monitor court cases such as gender-based violence.
  • Working with Area Advisory Council (AAC) that agitates for child rights creates platform to address violation of children rights.
  • Strengthened partnership with local law courts and their engagements in community capacity building activities has greatly reduced the huge gap that existed between members of pastoralist communities and the judiciary personnel, foremost the magistrate and prosecutor whom have been viewed as monsters.
  • Partnerships with Justice related institutions such as the Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) and National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) contributes significantly to access to justice as they are mandated to handle sensitive issues that do not directly go to local courts due to higher level investigations. These commissions serve as referral facilities that handle mal-practice of public servants.
  • Access to justice for women and other vulnerable groups requires that deeply held pastoralist traditions and attitudes are challenged. This is a long term process to which the project, through its awareness raising among the women elites, children leaders and persons with disabilities has made a significant contribution. However, ongoing change will require further empowerment within the communities.
  • Linking the paralegal program to governmental higher justice institutions like the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) creates platform for referral of cases.
  • Linking paralegals to like-minded human rights organizations like FIDA-Kenya, Paralegal Support Network (PASUNE), National coalition for Human Right defenders (NCHDR-K) and the Independent Medico-legal unit (IMLU), and Legal resources foundation strengthens the work of paralegals by providing additional case support.
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