The law firm: Leading Ugandan law firm Mukiibi, Kawooya, Onyango and Co Advocates
“We are general law practitioners but we have a strong bias for human rights work, NGO related work and international criminal law,” said John Onyango, at senior partner at MKO who previously worked for the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Network, the biggest network of human rights organisations in Uganda.
Did MKO have previous experience of pro bono work?
“What motivated my human rights practice is mainly my experience working with victims of conflict in northern Uganda and with victims of human rights violations,” Onyango said.
“I found them helpless in most cases, really helpless. Most of them were already some of the wretched of the earth. They don’t have economic means to pursue justice.
“We thought we could actually make a contribution at our firm. We do at least three pro bono cases every year on cases that we think are extreme.”
Why did MKO join TrustLaw Connect (TLC)?
“It was very easy to identify with the cause of TLC. Although we already provide legal aid, it was mostly any of the partners who would come across a matter that we think qualified and the partner could recommend that we handle that case,” Onyango said.
“We think that TLC presents a more systematic and organised way in which anyone who seeks legal aid can be connected to the legal aid provider quite fast. It is a faster way of us getting in touch with those who may need pro bono services.”
Who was the client?
Mango Tree Educational Enterprises, a company which makes innovative educational products for schools and health professionals.
What was the request?
Mango Tree made four applications within TLC: assistance with its shareholders agreement and governance manual; finding out its legal position as a limited private company; and whether it could win VAT exemption.
Why did MKO take on Mango Tree’s project?
“The work that Mango Tree does is very important in the educational sector. Most of the educational materials on the Ugandan market – and also on the African market – are really foreign. They are developed in other countries without regard to the culture of the communities which are going to use the educational materials,” Onyango said.
“We found their work very interesting and relevant especially for rural children. Their materials are really very innovative.”
What did Mango Tree say about the assistance they received?
“The support I’m getting is very valuable but I cannot afford it. A good quality lawyer will cost $55 an hour,” Guustaaf van de Mheen, executive director of Mango Tree, said.
“So you Google and you find what fits best with you and you use your common sense.
“[With TLC,] we got very good results and feedback. It enables me to move things forward on a legal level.”
What are MKO’s ambitions for the future?
“We would like to team up with likeminded firms in East African region. We foresee, for example, joining a team in Kenya that is doing a particular pro bono case or public interest litigation affecting the entire people of East Africa,” Onyango said.
“For example, persons with disabilities in the East African region share common challenges like accessibility to public offices, buildings. That is one area we could possibly work on in the future.”