Legal Aid Board Partners On Citizens Advisory Bureau

Members of the Citizens Advisory Bureau Working Committee have adopted the Bye-Laws for the soon-to-established Citizens Advisory Bureau (CAB) at a meeting at the AFRICELL Office on Bathurst Street in Freetown on Tuesday.

The Committee was put together at a stakeholders’ workshop on June 9 at the Atlantic Hall of the National Stadium Hostels to educate and discuss ideas about the Bureau which will offer Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation and Referral services in the community.

The meeting was convened under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board. It attracted twelve Tribal Headmen from the Western Area, Councilors from the Western Area Urban and Rural District Councils and representativesof the Sierra Leone Police, the Sierra Leone Correctional Service, National Youth Commission and civil society groups.

The Consultant for the meeting, Madam Memunata Pratt from the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Fourah Bay College led the discussions on the draft Bye-Laws which were unanimously adopted after changes were made to it.

The changes include increasing the tenure of office of the Council from two to three years and its Chair and Vice Chair to hold office for two consecutive terms only. Also, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and partnerswas added to the membership of the Council.

The participants agreed that those elected to or nominated to the CAB Council should be knowledgeable on issues of access to justice at formal and informal levels coupled with basic education on cultural issues.

Theyalso discussed how the Bureau will be operated and sustained in the communities where they will be established. Since the Bureau will be managed by volunteers, the Committee members stressed that the support of the community will be crucial to their effectiveness and sustainability.

It was agreed that the Bureau will be opened in phases starting with six in two constituencies in the Western Area. Each constituency will have three Bureaus located in different Wards. In addition, the host community will be responsible for providing the office space which could be the Council Hall, Council School, Community School, Community Hall or Court Barray.

The Legal Board was entrusted with overseeing the establishment of the Bureaus across the country.  This will involve assisting with setting-up the Bureaus, registering Bye-Laws, training of Paralegals and Mediators, fundraising and coordination.

It was agreed that the Board will not be responsible for paying stipends to volunteers, renting or constructing office space. In addition, it will not interfere in the election of members of the CAB Councils. Also, it was agreed that each CAB Council will have three sub-groups responsible for Mediation, Legal Representation and Legal Education, reintegration and Community Development.

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles described the frank discussions which characterized the meeting and the consequent outcome as a crucial step towards community ownership of the Citizens Advisory Bureau. ‘We have taken the decisions as a team and will see them through as a body,’ she said. ‘We are now energized to go into the community and mobilize resources to set-up the Bureaus. We will provide the assistance we have committed ourselves to at the meeting.’