Former Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Linda Kasonde has been elected as the vice president for the Africa Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association.

Kasonde was elected, Monday, at the 21st Commonwealth Law Association Conference held at the Avani Resort Hotel in Livingstone.

And speaking when he officiated at the event, President Edgar Lungu urged legal practitioners to constructively evaluate and keep the three arms of government in check and help them adhere to the tenets of the law.

“I urge the practitioners that inevitably must take up the mantle, to be the watch dog that ensures that the rule of law thrives. They must constructively evaluate and keep in check the Executive, Judicial and Legislative arms of governance in an effort to ensure all are alert and adhere to the tenets of the law. Constructive criticism is good in any system. I urge practitioners to seek even more innovative ways of engaging the three arms of government. I urge them to stray from mere criticism, but instead to consider themselves as partners that must dialogue and even participate in the different opportunities, to bring about positive changes in our societies. Do not sit on the side-lines, get involved,” President Lungu said.

He also said that government was determined in ensuring that all persons were entitled to a lawyer of experience and competence in the interest of justice.

“My government also seeks to ensure that in all cases in which the interests of justice so require, all persons be entitled to a lawyer of experience and competence commensurate with the nature of the offence assigned to them. This will enable access to and provision of effective legal assistance at no cost where resources are lacking to pay for legal services,” he said.

President Lungu also stressed the need for a vibrant, independent and professional legal profession in Zambia.

“My government is determined to hold accountable a legal profession, which shall, at all times, maintain the honour, dignity and integrity of its profession, as essential agents of the administration of justice. The need for a vibrant, independent and professional legal profession cannot be overemphasised,” President Lungu said.

The Head of State further urged the Lawyers’ Conference to debate and discuss whether the rule of law as it may be understood in modern times was in retreat.

“The rule of law is an authoritative legal doctrine or principle, which suggests that all people and institutions are subject to, and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced; the principle of government by law and not by men; adherence to due process of law. Simply said, the rule of law implies that the creation of laws, their enforcement and the relationships among legal rules are themselves legally regulated so that no one, including the most highly-placed official, is above the law. With the foregoing brief exposé on the rule of law, it remains for delegates of this prestigious conference to debate and discuss whether the rule of law, as it may be understood in modern times, is, indeed, in retreat and in any event, what challenges and opportunities exist for the modern commonwealth,” he said.

President Lungu further urged lawyers in Zambia to operationalize the Legal Aid Policy, which was recently formulated by government.

“In Zambia, I urge lawyers to operationalize the Legal Aid Policy recently formulated by my government. True wealth will only be measured by the legacy we will leave behind for those we assisted and inspired. Where the practitioners themselves see a threat from within, with the rise in the number of those admitted to the highly sought out Bar, and the inevitable rise of unemployment of advocates targeting the already scarce conventional legal jobs, I urge you to see an opportunity to think outside the box, and expand the reach of the profession to areas other than what is conventional. We must innovate as lawyers and begin to think as business professionals, but without losing the nobility of the legal profession. Legal practitioners should take up the challenges to build a practice outside the ordinary corporate and commercial realm or the criminal law practice,” said President Lungu.

“Feed the gaps for legal expertise within the countryside or rural areas, reach the marginalized and upcoming traders, farmers, small-scale business persons who require this legal touch, but are otherwise unable to access it because of perception of the discouraging fees.”

And LAZ president Eddie Mwitwa thanked President Lungu for reminding the profession of its noble obligation.

The Conference was also attended by Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland and other foreign legal practitioners.