Daniel Ocham, in blue, squatting with the KCBO-NET members
Daniel Ocham is 60-years-old and a paralegal at the Kamkunji Social Justice Centre, in the Majengo slum of Nairobi. Majengo slum is on the outskirts of the city and dates back to the time of the British. It was once a small village where Africa migrants from the rural areas lived when they came to work in Nairobi. Today the slum is associated with prostitution, poverty, criminality as well as extrajudicial killings.
For years, Daniel has watched, dismally, the degradation in his backyard. With friends, he helped form the Kamukunji Community-Based Organisations Network (KCBO-NET), a network of organisations working to improve governance, access to justice, and sanitation in the Majengo neighborhood.
“Huku Majengo, Kesi utupata,” says Daniel, “Kila siku, kila wakati, kuna Kesi.”
“Here in Majengo cases find us. Every day, every minute there is a case.”
The cases Daniel is referring to range from domestic violence, petty theft, land grabbing, to documenting police killings, as well as countering violent extremism. While some cases are settled at the Justice Centre, the difficult ones are handed over to trained lawyers, who follow up to courts.
Through KCBO-NET, and with support from the non-governmental organisation, Kituo Cha Sheria, in 2000 they established the Kamkunji Justice Centre.
“We were the first volunteers to create it,” Daniel says with excitement. Currently, more centres have come up in other counties in Kenya. In Kamkunji alone, more than 200 paralegals have been trained through Kituo Cha Sheria which oversees operations at the centres.
(Kituo Cha Sheria was founded in 1973 and provides legal aid to poor and marginalised communities. Since its inception, it has grown to champion legal programs supported by lawyers who provide free legal services and has trained hundreds of community members as paralegals.)
For his love for football, Daniel is known locally as Orantes (a localised version of Pelé Arantes). Even when he is busy taking information for the Justice Centre, he coaches football at the Pumwani Sports team which he helped create to steer the youth off criminality and the lure of joining terror gangs. He also provides legal advice to several other sports teams in the country.
Being involved in community affairs is not often a walk in the park as Daniel discovered. In 1999, Daniel says, Kituo cha Sheria trained a number of volunteers to monitor government devolved funds. To his disbelief, the then local member of parliament ordered their arrest. “We were arrested for informing people about their rights and questioning the use of devolved funds,” he claims.
But this did not stop him.
“We have seen many happy clients who appreciate our work when we help them solve cases, and when they win, they spread the information. We are always busy,” says Daniel. The Kamkunji Justice Centre has nurtured many lawyers in Kenya and established alternative means of dispute resolution in communities, attracting other institutions who provide training on matters like sexual abuse and child rights.
Mama Rhoda, a resident of Majengo slums, shows the house she was evicted from when her rent was in arrears. She filed a case to recover the house and her belongings. She now has access to the property.
Maurice Opiyo (red shirt) is a resident of Majengo slums. He filed a case with Kamkunji Justice center to reclaim his space grabbed at the Gikomba market, where he sells shoes. He has since resumed work after successful litigation.
Daniel Ocham with files of cases he follows up on, especially land grabbing.
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