USAID Officials Visit AJLA Project, Appreciate Activities

 

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By Fitsum Fisseha/ College of Law

High level officials from USAID Ethiopia said they were fascinated by the wide ranging free legal services being offered by Haramaya University’s College of Law (CoL) through its Access to Justice and Legal Awareness (AJLA) Project.

In their three day visit from November 24-26, 2014, the two delegates observed the activities of the free legal centers in Jarso, Kombolcha, Gursum, and Harar.

Trevor Hublin, Office of Democracy and Governance Chief, and Brian Gilchrest, Conflict and Security Advisor,  have appreciated the significant achievements of the project. They indicated that they were particularly captivated by the stories with regards to the free legal support given to the poor and vulnerable group of the society. According to the USAID representatives, the University as well as the College’s collaborative work with stakeholders in the sector and the achievements so far are encouraging lesson for other universities.

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Sultan Kassim, a lecturer at CoL and head of AJLA Project, briefed the delegates concerning the major activities of the project from inception up to present time. He explained the significant achievements of the free legal service by giving emphasis on the time since the involvement of the USAID. The expansion of the project, capacity building activities, and Haramaya University’s collaboration with stakeholders in the justice sector were also part of Sultan’s presentation.

The delegates also forwarded some of their questions concerning AJLA’s activities on the various sites. The head as well as staff members of the project have responded to the questions.

The representatives have observed the delivery of service in the four sites and they also discussed with clients, gathered feedback, and sat down with the legal officers to talk on issues of clients’ handling and mechanisms of awareness creation.

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The delegates from USAID Ethiopia have also held constructive dialogue with the various stakeholders in the sites they visited. The discussion mainly focused on the ways as to how the free legal service could be further strengthened. The officials added that their organization is proud to be part of this success story. Such an endeavor should be expanded in other areas of the country and the sustainability of the free legal service should be well thought by all stakeholders, they advised.c

The officials were able to observe the activities in the University’s Main Campus by visiting CoL, AJLA Project main office, and HU FM 91.5.

The support of USAID to the AJLA Project lasts for five years. The project will enter to its 3rd phase in the coming December. The contract is renewed and the budget releasedin every six month after the assessment of the project’s activities.

In its third phase, the project’s officials have plans to introduce new improvements. Opening new free legal centers, increasing the number of legal officers in the centers where there is clients’ congestion, preparing continuous awareness creation sessions are among some of the future moves expected to be materialized in the coming six-month period.

For the past twelve months (October 2013- September 2014), the AJLA Project has provided free legal services to 128, 357poor, marginalized, and vulnerable people in east and west Hararghe zones of Oromia Regional State and the Harari Regional State.

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