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Alternative Justice System hailed for efficiency

The Chief Magistrate at the Isiolo Law Courts Lucy Mutai has hailed the impact of the use of Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) in the resolution of disputes, noting that courtesy of the same, the backlog of cases as well as the number of matters being filed at the court has considerably reduced.

Addressing journalists following a two-day meeting where stakeholders gave their input towards the formulation of the Isiolo County Action Plan geared towards improving AJS in the County, the Chief Magistrate added that through application of the Alternative Justice System where elders hear and resolve disputes, the number of persons being held at the remand prison has also gone down, therefore averting congestion at the correctional facility.

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As a way of improving efficiency of the AJS, Mutai noted that courtesy of a joint effort between the Judiciary, the County Government of Isiolo and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), two suites will be established to provide a good venue for the elders who have already been trained on justice systems to sit and hear matters brought before them.

According to the magistrate, the smaller suite will be used when handling family matters that need confidentiality and do not require the presence of many people, while the second suite will be a larger room where many people will be accommodated, especially to listen to land matters and other disputes.

Both the AJS Suite and the County Action Plan are expected to be completed by July this year, with Chief Justice Martha Koome expected to officially unveil the two at the Isiolo Law Court Grounds.

The Head of Secretariat at The National Steering Committee on Implementation of Alternative Justice Systems Jemimah Aluda said that the adoption of AJS has played a key role in the administration of justice over the years, effectively resolving disputes that could otherwise take years in a court of law, while enabling the magistrates to focus only on matters of a higher criminal magnitude that cannot be settled by the elders, such as murder and defilement.

Aluda said that the main challenge in the implementation of AJS has been facilitating the elders who sometimes come from distant places, while documentation of the handled cases has also been a challenge since the elders do not have a secretariat.

She noted that the challenge of lack of appropriate venue to hear matters will soon be addressed through opening of the AJS Suite by July this year. Aluda noted that capacity building for the persons involved in AJS will continue so that justice seekers get impartial dispensation of the same.

Isiolo Deputy County Secretary Mohamed Boru who represented Governor Abdi Guyo said that the County Government of Isiolo was fully in support of implementation of the AJS Model, and will take part in the establishment of the AJS suites that are expected to be ready in the next three to four months.

Isiolo Interfaith Network Secretary Bishop Stephen Kalunyu urged members of public to build trust in the Alternative Justice System model, so that cases which the magistrate hands over to the elders are resolved amicably and in a shorter period of time. Any person who is not comfortable with the manner in which their matter was handled through the AJS model still has an avenue of seeking justice through the Court.

The AJS model in Isiolo County has been in place for the past ten years and creates a link between the autonomous AJS panels (represented by the Councils of elders) and the court through the Court Annexed Mechanism.

AJS panels comprise a blend of religious leaders, administrators and respected elders within the various communities.

Bruno Mutunga
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