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Shadrack Wambui was sworn in as the advocate on the court on 27th of March 2018.

Boxing

Meet an advocate who is blending Law and boxing to restore hope for despondent slum dwellers

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 13 – You are probably one of those despondent slum residents seeking justice.

But you are unable to do so given the perturbing nature of ‘ghetto living’ where survival is the norm.

You need not to worry. A young boxer-cum-lawyer is working to demystify the intricacies of social justice, more so, in his Bondeni neighborhood of Mathare slum where stories of police brutality have been rife. Shadrack Wambui is not the only boxer from this sprawling Bondeni slum.

The area also known as “Bonde” has produced boxers of international repute including Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games silver medalist Absalom ‘Diblo’ Okinyi, his brother Nick Okoth ‘Commander’ and Cousin Edwin Okongo aka “Ocox”.

Recently, Wambui’s sister Pauline Chege made history by becoming the second ever female boxer to be recruited into the Armed Forces after she passed out a few weeks ago, thus adding to the growing list of the stylish “Bonde” boxers.

-Sheria Mtaani-

Through “Sheria Mtaani- Na Shadrack Wambui”, lawyer Shadrack Wambui has had a burning desire to defend vulnerable slum residents when it really matters.

“The idea about Sheria Mtaani was conceived in 2018 but everything was formalised this year. We are now domiciled at the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government under Section 10 of the Non-Governmental Organizations Co-ordination Act,” Wambui, who was one of the counsel that won the famous case of the Rastafarian student who was barred from enrolling for a secondary school in Kibra, said.

“We came up with the idea largely because of the harsh environment that we grew up in back then. There was a pressing need to secure legal representation. Unfortunately engaging an advocate was and still is quite expensive for people living in slums like Kibra, Kayole and Mathare where we were born and raised. Between 2018 and now we have been doing a lot of pro-bono work. We actually offered ourselves to represent children who are in conflict with the law at Milimani Law Courts where we pick briefs on a regular basis to represent children.”

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Sheria Mtaani initiative hasn’t existed without challenges, as Wambui narrates. “We have had to contend with financial constraints but still soldiered on as that’s not something you will wish away. For now, we are now compelled to utilize or over utilize our private or personal resources in the course of justice for the people. And that largely informs why the idea of coming up with a non-governmental organization so that we can pull resources from elsewhere, from people who will help in championing the rights of the people.”

-Wambui shining star in Boxing-

Wambui has won accolades for his insatiable desire to blend the sport of boxing with law. “I am an amateur boxer. I have been boxing since I was a child. Probably the highlight came once we moved into Kayole area, I joined Kayole Wings Miller Boxing Club which was birthed by our deceased coach Muchoki Mwangi.”

He added, “He was a great man, a selfless man who died on the 15th July 2018. He inspired us to look at boxing from a different perspective, as a tool that changes community. And coincidentally I had taken up being a lawyer. So, bringing law and boxing together has over time seen different things complement each other-so that what we do in boxing advances what we do in law.”

“Likewise, how we pursue law compliments how we deal with boxers and the society at large. So, of interest is when Coach Muchoki passed on, we were left with a hefty debt of about KES. 700,000. We were unable to raise that kind of money, after trying so hard to fundraise. So, the hospital detained the remains of my coach for two months. It’s then that the committee resolved to commence a legal process so that we get back the remains.”

“On the 4th of September the court directed Kenyatta National Hospital to release the remains, immediately and unconditionally. Just recently in Mombasa again, with the passing of Coach Mike Mucine on the 2nd of October we also filed another suit because he had left behind a bill of KES. 3. 8 million.”

“It’s with the knowledge of the decision that we had taken to go to court that Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa released the remains of Coach Mucine who was buried on the 8th day of October. In actual sense the hearing had been set but we decided to withdraw the case after getting a commitment from the hospital that they were going to release his body.”

So, how has Sheria Mtaani networked to make the difference in the slums?

“In addition to sports cases that we represent, we have used law to expose ourselves to different players in this country. For example, Don Bosco Technical School in Karen has been instrumental which came on board to help boxers get an opportunity to get trained in technical courses.”

“These connections are also being used to help boxers get sponsors.  These sponsors have helped in educating them right from school to college level. We have at least 15 boxers who have benefited. We have boxers who are now mechanics, those who went to driving schools, others undertaking computer studies, while some have been enrolling in security works. We have boxers now serving as waiters in hotels which goes to show in a small way how our connections have helped us transform the lives of boxers.”

-Future plans-

“The benefits I get from legal practice are extended into the growth and prosperity of boxing in this country. I envision myself in opening a boxing academy to ensure that boxers get to benefit more from the sport. Boxing isn’t well paying and not much celebrated in terms of boxers getting accolades and incentives. Mine is to ensure that boxing is an equal sport like others; that there is a good reward so we could also export boxing talent overseas,” Wambui sated.

He added, “Probably I will one day want to get an opportunity of leadership of boxing in this country. I have had an opportunity to be a boxer. I have also had an opportunity of being an advocate; I have had the opportunity of understanding the management of sport from a professional point of view. I would also like to assist the amateur Federation (BFK) going forward. I’m glad that I have become an example that a boxer can be a disciplined person, keen at taking instructions and can also mean something to this society in changing lives. We brought a Rastafarian girl back to class who had been chased away. That is a life that we have changed. Forever that child will live to remember the works that were done by Shadrack and friends.”

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So where does Wambui see Sheria Mtaani in the next five years?

“I see Sheria Mtaani being larger than even what we had even envisioned. We see ourselves setting up branches all over the country. For now, we are concentrating in Nairobi’s informal settlement. Our main focus now is ensuring that justice is realized for the poor in the slums,” the lawyer stated.

“I have savored the opportunity to travel across the country’s law courts and seen the kind of injustice that our people are exposed on a daily basis. We plan to also provoke conversations in this country by coming up with cases that are going to change the way we look at things and the way we interpret them in this country, and this is because of this igneous conception of Sheria Mtaani.”

“Sheria Mtaani will be in a position to ensure that justice is done to these people. Justice will not become an elusive concept to people living in the slums.” 

“We have also lived in a society where we have been victims of police brutality. Police have not only brutalized our people by destroying their businesses, they have also maimed and killed people I went to school with.  We are not saying that we do not have people who are either involved or engaged in crime. What we are saying is, let the due process of the law be observed. Let’s not have extra judicial killings, if someone must be killed let them be killed by a strike of the pen, by the judge. Policemen shouldn’t take law in their own hands.”

About Wambui

He was born and raised in the slums of Mathare and had an early opportunity to join emblematic Maseno School as his national school of choice.  In 2019 he was nominated as the Young Lawyer of the year by the Law Society of kenya (LSK).

“I studied through scholarships and through the assistance of my deceased grandmother who passed away on 18th June 2013. I performed well and my grandmother felt I was not fit to join the University of Nairobi for reasons that she thought I could get swallowed in the politics of the day. I took the option of Joining CUEA and excelled in my studies by getting a first-class honors in law. In 2014-15 I was elected to serve as the President of the students’ organization of CUEA. I have had a history of championing for the rights of my people. I stand for what I believe is just and correct.”

“After my four years pursuing the bachelors of law, I was taken under the wings of Senior Counsel Danstan Omari, who was my lecturer back in school. He introduced me to the business of law and we have done much together. I was sworn in as the advocate on the court on 27th of March 2018.”

“Fairly speaking I’m barely three years in practice. I take my calling as a lawyer not a selfish agenda. I have a purpose to serve my community. My mum was selling Chang’aa in Mathare and it’s the proceeds of Chang’aa that took me to school. Later on, in Campus, I got a scholarship from the Catholic University and studied through the CDF and well-wishers. The advocate benevolent fund of LSK sponsored my post graduate diploma at the Kenya School of Law which now saw me being admitted as an advocate in the year 2018. Been an awesome journey growing up in the slums and getting to see the opportunity to see the other side of the world.”

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