The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and partners are keen on strengthening the Alternative Justice System in a bid to expand access to justice among the poor in the face of the COVID -19 pandemic in the Counties.
UNDP Kenya Resident Representative Walid Badawi says through the Program for Legal empowerment and Aid Delivery Kenya (PLEAD), established legal Aid Centers will enable the poor to access free digital court proceedings and legal services for timely justice.
Speaking in Nakuru at the launch of the Nakuru Legal Aid Center at the County Commissioner`s office, Walid said the centres are in conformity to the United Nations aspiration for equitable access to Justice for peaceful and cohesive societies.
Walid said the program is piloted in 12 counties.
He said through the arrangement with the Judiciary, 26 Community Based Organizations across the Country are already receiving financial and technical support from UNDP to be able to enhance access to legal services among the poor.
Walid said at the establishments, beneficiaries have access to free virtual court proceedings, a pro bono lawyer and trained paralegal officers for efficient justice which he says is a cornerstone for strong and cohesive societies.
He said 4 Alternative Dispute Resolution ( ADR) centres have been established in Lamu County, 4 in Nairobi and another one in Mombasa Counties to help ease the burden of case backlog in conventional courts of the regions.
The Chairman to the Steering Committee on Alternative Justice Systems( AJS) and High Court Judge Prof. Joel Ngugi termed the initiative as innovative saying the legal aid centres will help to reduce case backlog in courts which he describes as an impediment in the judiciary`s quest to ensure timely justice to all citizens.
The High Court Judge commended the program saying it will enable members of society who are unable to raise legal fees in their pursuit of justice to find justice efficiently and on time as is enshrined in law.
Nakuru East Deputy County Commissioner Eric Wanyonyi who represented Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui at the event said the Nakuru centre is invaluable in settling civil disputes that can be settled amicably by parties without going through a protracted court process.
The Executive Director to the Center for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) Cornelius Oduor on his part said the newly commissioned Nakuru Legal Aid Center has trained chefs, community elders and police officers on gender-responsive strategies, the best approaches to human rights and legal aid practices.
Oduor was optimistic that the knowledge will help the trained paralegal officers provide timely assistance to beneficiaries of the centre.
He said 404 disputes have been reported to the centre in recent months and 17 of them have been successfully resolved.
The Director said most disputes reported are about Gender-Based Violence and Child support which have been concluded amicably among parties involved.