2013 BARER FELLOWS
Akello Florence Owinji (Florence) - UGANDA
Florence is the eldest in a family of 11 children. Throughout her primary and secondary education she lived in the Northern part of Uganda which for two decades witnessed the worst forms of human rights violations in the history of Uganda. The armed rebellion led by Joseph Kony under the Leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army has been in the forefront in committing these gross violations of human rights. However, some of the human rights abuses were committed by the Government forces.
Besides human rights violations, Uganda is facing a serious environmental crisis that is being brought on by the uncontrolled need for rapid economic development in order to meet the high demand for participating in the marketplace. Other issues of concern in Uganda are the destruction of cultures and cultural heritage, uncontrolled environment degradation, and the poor administration of justice. These issues are posing great threats to attaining sustainable development.
Florence’s aspiration to study law arose from the massive violations of human rights which she witnessed being committed in my community. She fulfilled this aspiration the moment she graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor of Laws and thereafter went to Law Development Centre for a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice to enable her to practice as an Advocate.
Immediately after her Postgraduate Diploma, she joined a Law Firm where she worked for a short period of time before joining the Public Service as a State Attorney in the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions. As a State Attorney, Florence has served in various areas and handled many complex cases. She secured convictions in many highly extensive and contested cases and because of her clear track record she has been promoted to the position of a Senior State Attorney, the position she is serving to date. In her service as an Attorney, she has experienced many challenges including threats to her life and her immediate family from notorious criminals. At first Florence was scared of these threats but she later realized how important her work is to her, her community and the country. She is confidence that she is on the right track to achieving her dreams and aspirations.
With this Barer Institute Fellowship which Florence is privileged to be a part of, she believes she will attain knowledge and skills that will build her capacity and widen her understanding of criminal justice vis –a – viz sustainable development. She also believes that her attained qualifications will be very essential to her employers (DPP) and the Justice Law and Order Sector where DPP falls. These institutions will be equipped with the essential staff to deal with the intricate and complex cases involving the issue of sustainable development. The added qualifications will also go a long way in preparing her for any complex assignment within the sector.
And lastly Florence hopes that with her new knowledge and skills she will be able to help transform the justice system in Uganda.
Her research interests include: International Criminal Justice and Sustainable Development, Crimes against Future Generations, Human Rights and Sustainable Development.
Florence is married to Churchill Nokrach with whom she has two children: Rachael Valerie Laker 6 years and Christian Nathanael Uma Nokrach three years and six months.
Benjamin E. Aritao, Jr. (Benj) - Philippines
As early as he could remember, Benj had dreamt of becoming a lawyer. With relatives in practice, Benj saw first hand the role of attorney in bring life to the words of the law. With knowledge of the law, a person could find justice, resist oppression and assert rights.
In his high school years, he volunteered to assist an organization that works to help the poor in the Philippines deal with HIV and AIDS. Though unaware of it, a very personal love affair with “grass-roots” development work was already beginning. Benj had opportunities to assist in research work relating to the issue of displacement as it occurs in Mindanao, the southernmost island group of the Philippines, as well as other areas in development.
Benj proceeded to De La Salle University’s business school, which was his pre-law of choice. After obtaining his college degree in Business Management, Benj enrolled at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law. He graduated in 2008 and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 2009. Benj then worked for one of the Philippines’ leading law firms.
Two years into practice, Benj, his brother and two friends put up a social business called “The Paper Project, Inc.” (TPPI). TPPI provides livelihood to women escaping prostitution and human trafficking in the Philippines. Livelihood reduces the risk of re-trafficking and is the foundation of recovery and reintegration. TPPI enjoyed tremendous success as a business and is giving decent work to a growing number of women who are otherwise not qualified for any employment available from the general job market. He left law firm practice to attend to the new and growing business but remains engaged as a legal consultant for a conglomerate.
Benj’s love for “grass-roots” work was rekindled from his experiences fifteen years ago. His knowledge in business and law helped tremendously in the success of the business. Benj has many ideas for new social businesses and is excited to start new projects. However, even with the rapid growth of TPPI and potentially emerging social businesses, the surface is barely scratched as far as the Philipines is concerned. Benj sees the need for an adjustment in the legal framework to set the right conditions for this type of development work to grow rapidly.
He decided to apply for a Barer Fellowship particularly to learn and discover if other countries are dealing with similar issues and to learn about solutions that may have worked for others. Benj is also hopeful of the prospect of a being involved with a network of professionals who are interested and highly capable of spurring development in their respective countries. He believes that this shared knowledge can increase each person’s potential exponentially.
Benj continues to be an active director of The Paper Project, Inc., work as a corporate consultant and maintain a private practice with his wife.
Charles Mutasa - ZIMBABWE
Charles Mutasa has always had a desire to study law after high school but somehow, he seems to have lost that when he entered the University and enrolled as an undergraduate in Political Science and Administration and later proceeded to do a Masters in Development studies. After University, he went on to join the NGO sector with a passion to contribute to development policy research and advocacy especially in the areas of Socio-economic Justice (Debt, Aid & Trade), Poverty reduction, the right o Health, Governance, Civil society and Social movements work. Fortunately, in pursuing these Charles realized that his passion for law has not died and he still wants to mix his exposure to the development discourse with Legal Services.
For many years, as Charles worked in Zimbabwe with colleagues dealing with the importance of linking human rights and the rule of law issues with other sustainable development issues especially economics and politics, he has been convinced that he needs to pursue an LL.M. He is confident that his expertise and experience in the development field over the last 16 years and his qualifications in the law offered by the LL.M. program will help him contribute to Zimbabwe’s transitional justice issues. With this legal qualification Charles can easily blend his consultancy work in socio-economic justice with legal issues of transparency, accountability, the rule of law and a respect for human rights.
As a Zimbabwean who has worked at national, regional and global levels, Charles feel that participating in the LL.M. program in the Law of Sustainable International Development will make a big difference in the way he approaches development work. He thinks it will enable him to become better acquainted with various multi-disciplinary approaches of sustainable development which are necessarily for his effective and meaningful contribution to Africa’s development. The LL.M. program affords him a learning opportunity as a leader and it links him to a wider network of professionals, activists and practitioners that are working on the same subject matter. For the Global common good, the LL.M. program will link him to various key professionals including - lawyers, academics, policy makers, advocates and subject matter experts cutting across international boundaries. It provides him with direct access to expertise from the academia, international organisations and think tanks. Charles’ academic interests include: economic development, the international protection of human rights, health and human rights, and international criminal law.
Stella Wangechi Ngotho - KENYA
Stella Wangechi is a Human Rights Lawyer at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. She is currently the Program officer of the Transitional Justice project. From a volunteer, an intern, and finally a lawyer Stella has increasingly moved into larger spheres of activity that translate to direct engagement and positive change to individuals and communities. This experience of thriving change continues to drive her professional aspirations.
Stella holds a bachelor of laws degree from Moi University and a postgraduate degree from Kenya school of Law. She has previously worked at the International Commission of Jurists- Kenya section and in a Law firm Lucy Kambuni Advocates.
The reason Stella chose the Barer Fellowship is to excel as an advocate for social justice and the equitable development of all people through key areas of education, health and economic development. She is also confident that the Barer Fellowship will further her knowledge and skills that will contribute to the realization of a culture of legal reform, equitable development and good governance in Kenya.
Stella is particularly interested in citizens’ participation in reform initiatives through legislative advocacy.
Hon. Lorraine Dinna Ogombe (Lorraine) - KENYA
Right from childhood the Hon Lorraine Ogombe has always had a burning desire to take part in the articulation of issues affecting society through advocacy and public service. In particular she found inspiration in court room drama and was easily attracted to law as a career. She recalls that when she was 13 years old she had occasion, for the first time, to visit a distant uncle, who was then a judge of the High Court at Nairobi. He motivated and encouraged her aspirations to join the legal profession. It was that moment that truly defined her ambitions to become a lawyer and eventually a judicial officer.
Lorraine graduated from the University of Nairobi in 2006 with a Bachelor of Laws Degree and proceeded to Kenya School of Law to pursue a Post Graduate Degree in law in line with the requirements for admission to the Kenyan Bar. Upon successful completion of the course, she was admitted as an advocate of the High Court in 2008. Thereafter she began her career in law through private practice working with several leading law firms in Nairobi. During her time on the bar she had occasion to handle a variety of litigation cases in commercial and business law, criminal law, family and child rights law, public law and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
In line with her aspirations to make a contribution to her country through public service, she joined the Kenyan Judiciary as a Resident Magistrate in July 2012. She has been adjudicating on a wide array of disputes and is currently on leave of absence from the judiciary to pursue this Masters program.
Lorraine applied for the Barer Fellowship because it offered an exciting opportunity to deepen her knowledge on the law and issues relating to sustainable development with special focus on intellectual property (IP). Her interest in IP was nurtured at the University of Nairobi through the mentorship of Professor Ben Sihanya a leading scholar in the field of IP and innovation in Kenya and Africa. Naturally, even her dissertation at the undergraduate level was on IP titled Parallel importation and the law in Kenya. She was also employed as a research assistant at Innovative Lawyering and Copyright Africa where she gained valuable insights, knowledge and experience in IP issues in Kenya. Outside the University she has continued to work on IP and related issues as a legal practitioner and currently as a judicial officer. Therefore to be offered the opportunity to gain further knowledge at the University of Washington, in the field of intellectual property especially in the context of the American system is bound to prove momentous.
Upon completion of program, Lorraine intends to return to Kenya to apply the knowledge and skills gained through the Barer Fellowship in her work as a judicial officer. By obtaining an LL.M. in IP, she will enhance the capacity of the Kenyan Judiciary to deal with IP issues which is a nascent area of law. In addition she aspires to contribute further to society by conducting legal research on contemporary IP and related issues.
Tin Nyo Nyo Thoung (Nyo Nyo) - MYANMAR
Tin Nyo Nyo Thoung was raised by in small town in Myanmar where her parents were a middle school mathematics teacher and English teacher. Her parents wanted their four children to become physicians but they choose to become a veterinary surgeon, lawyer, engineer, and business man. Among them Nyo Nyo is a lawyer. When she was 10 years old, she visited her grandfather, a famous lawyer in Myanmar, who earned his law degree in India. Nyo Nyo acquired some law books and started reading them even though she could not understand them. When she went to university, she chose to major in law. She has worked for the Attorney General’s Office since she earned her master’s degree from Yangon University. She has always wanted to go abroad for further study; although she earned her Ph.D degree from Osaka University in Japan, studying in the United State is her dream.
Nyo Nyo is currently an Assistant Director at the Union Attorney General’s office in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. She spent 6years in Japan for her master degree and Ph.D degree focusing on the commercial contract. Her research interests include: essential legal clauses in contracts, right of bill of lading holder, comparison study on pre-contractual liabilities, and comparison study on good faith theory.
Currently, her Assistant Director responsibilities include drafting, vetting and checking commercial contracts being entered into between the government and foreign and domestic companies. Her work also involves advising government departments on commercial matters and participating in negotiations between the departments and foreign companies. This is a difficult area for the lawyers of this division as there is a lack of knowledge of various areas of specialty commercial law (e.g. copyright, insurance, loans).
Myanmar changed its political system to a democratic one for about two years ago in accordance with the new Constitution. Foreign investment has increased day by day in accordance with political stability. In the meanwhile, the commercial contract division of the Union Attorney General’s office has a vital role in supporting the country.
Nyo Nyo wants to research international best practices, particularly with respect to commercial contracts and implementing international standards. She also wants to research drafting commercial contracts, cooperative governance and negotiations. She believes that the Barer Fellowship will allow her to achieve her research goals and support her work in Myanmar.