We are answering the most frequently asked question that we get through this third entry of our 4-part series.
This month, we feature Najib Kasole, graduate of the second cohort of the training programme. Najib currently works with the Insurance Regulatory Authority of Uganda as a Legal Officer — Complaints. In his role, Najib is responsible for the adjudication of disputes between insurance companies and the public. Najib is also a member of the Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL) where he serves as the Chairperson of the health rights thematic group.
For Najib, two sessions during the training programme were life-changing. These were taught by Boniface Mwangi — journalist from Kenya and Fatma Karume — commercial lawyer from Tanzania. Their work, courage, sacrifice and resilience in fighting for justice and the rule of law, continue to be a source of inspiration for Najib. That partly explains Najib’s active role at NETPIL, which is where he mostly practices Public Interest Litigation.
Before I joined the programme, I was eager to learn more about using PIL in creating change. To be honest, I got more than I had bargained for. On top of the knowledge I acquired from the distinguished course facilitators, most importantly what has greatly impacted and shaped my career from the programme, is the self-confidence (overcoming my imposter syndrome) I came out with at the end of the programme. By the end of the fellowship I was self-assured that I could take on any PIL issue from scratch and see it through till the end. I believed in myself.”
Najib’s PIL project during the training programme sought to address the regional imbalance and inequality in Universal Primary Education (UPE) in Uganda. The project advocated for both equity and equality in government funding of UPE. Najib’s argument before the Equal Opportunities Commission is that the government of Uganda has an obligation under the local, regional and international laws to make sure that every child especially those in underprivileged regions have access to the highest attainable quality of education. The remedy that Najib seeks is for an order to compel the government to invest in a resilient and strong Universal Primary Education system with particular attention to addressing regional imbalances. Due to financial constraints and a high case backlog at the Commission, the case is still ongoing.
Since graduating from the programme, Najib has worked on a number of other PIL cases. Some of these were under the guidance of the Uganda Law Society President, Ms. Pheona Wall. Najib worked on the concept and research work on the enforceability of provisions of the Tobacco Control Act of Uganda. Najib also worked on preparation of pleadings for a PIL case that was to be brought before the East African Court of Justice on the ban of the exportation of Ugandan maize to Kenya through a directive by Kenya’s Director General of the Agriculture and Food Authority, citing high levels of mycotoxins as the justification for the directive. Najib and colleagues contended that, this directive was inconsistent with Kenya’s obligation to avoid arbitrary and unjustifiable trade restrictions under the EAC Treaty and the EAC Common Market Protocol. Even though the case has not been filed due to various issues, Najib shares that the experience and lessons learnt were immense. He carries these lessons forward on other PIL cases; and Najib has quite a number of those on his desk.
Through a collaboration of NETPIL and other NGOs (Katosi Women Development Trust and Fian Uganda) Najib is working on a human rights awareness project meant to empower communities in rural and fisher communities around Lake Victoria to know their basic human rights and how to get redress where there are violations of these rights. Najib hopes that through these engagements and community dialogues, the lives of structurally marginalized people in these communities will improve through empowering them to champion their own social and economic rights.
Also, under NETPIL, Najib and colleagues are keeping an eye on the legality of The Public Health (Amendment) Bill of 2021 which sought to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory, imposing fines on people who would refuse to be vaccinated against coronavirus and those who failed to pay the fines could be imprisoned. Najib and colleagues at NETPIL argue that the mandatory vaccines would be a violation of the human rights principles of body autonomy. With the drop of coronavirus cases, the proposed Bill seems to have lost traction. However, Najib and colleagues intend to monitor the Bill’s progress in readiness of going to Court in case the Bill eventually becomes Law.
“I am now more alive to the injustices that are happening not only in my country but also in East Africa and the continent as a whole. I do feel better empowered than I did before I joined the programme and it’s changed my mind on the need to speak out about the injustices that are happening to marginalised and vulnerable communities wherever they are.”
We commend Najib’s passion, growth and focus and wish him success in all his endeavours.
The next edition of #WhereAreOurGraduates will be shared at the end of August.