Public lecturer on access to legal profession parameters in Rwanda

October 4th, 2023, the President of the Rwanda Bar Association Me. NKUNDABARASHI Moise delivered a public lecture on Access to Legal Profession in Rwanda at the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD) headquarters Nyanza and over two hundred and fifty current and former students attended it.

The participants come different countries including Rwanda, Cameroon, Gambia, South Sudan, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, etc.  Over the years, ILPD has been a beacon of legal education for foreign students. A significant number of these international students come to Rwanda with the aspiration of becoming legal practitioners, drawn by the relatively straightforward process that Rwanda offers to enter its labor market, especially when compared to other countries. 

The majority of the ILPD students who have successfully completed their legal studies at ILPD and have passed the exam administered by the Rwanda Bar Association (RBA), are now practicing in Rwanda as advocates, while others decide to go and practice in their respective countries after being enrolled as member of Rwanda Bar Association. However, some have been denied joining the practice in their countries such as Cameroun due to the lack of reciprocity between two Bar Associations.

Cameroon currently boasts many lawyers in the Rwanda Bar Association, with over 400 having completed their training in the past five years, making it the leading source of applicants. Now, approximately 500 more have expressed their interest in joining. 

One student from Cameroun called Onana Antoine Depodou, expressed his optimism, stating that he chose to study in Rwanda at ILPD because he recognized the value of its qualifications for entering the labor market.   He said, "I came to Rwanda with the hope of realizing my dream of becoming a lawyer, as Rwanda is one of the few countries that facilitates the entry into the legal profession of aspiring lawyers."  Depodou further pointed out the stark contrast, highlighting that in Cameroon, it takes about nine (09) years to get an admission to the bar. This protracted process prompted him to come to Rwanda, where new entrants are recruited each year. 

Even though this year, applicants from Cameroun were denied writing the Bar exam due to the lack of reciprocity between two countries, he still has hope that issue will be settled out soon as it was explained by the President of Rwanda Bar Association. Another student, Akam Amandie, shared the high expectations she had when coming to Rwanda, believing that her friends who had previously come had been admitted to the bar. However, her own experience has been different.

Moise Nkundabarashi, the President of Rwanda Bar Association admitted that this year, the applicants from Cameroun were not allowed to sit for Bar exam. Nkundabarashi emphasizes that practicing law is a regulated profession and underscores the importance of foreign countries allowing Rwandans to practice in their territories as the foundation for their own nationals to practice law in Rwanda.  He explained, "In Rwanda, we have established norms that expect individuals from the top five (05) countries in Africa to join us, but we make it clear that nationals of those countries, upon returning home, should be able to practice in their own jurisdictions. Regrettably, no country has reciprocated this arrangement thus far." 

The President of Rwanda Bar Association revealed that there very serious ongoing discussions on the issue between countries involved and gave hope to the participants that the barriers which are preventing the Rwanda Bar Association from now admitting Cameroonians are being resolved through dialogues and urged them also to push their government and the Bar Association in Cameroun to make this happen.