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We must make Kenyans agents of their own justice, says CJ Koome

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The Judiciary is actively pursuing initiatives that will make Kenyans agents of their own justice, according to Chief Justice Martha Koome.

The initiatives to champion a people-centered justice system include widening the doorways of justice beyond the confines of courtrooms through Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) and enhancing collaboration to close the justice gap.

“The justice gap is both a reflection of structural inequalities and disparities in power and a contributor to these inequalities. Within this context, our Constitution aspires to fulfil the determination of Kenyans to combat exclusion and inequality, protect the vulnerable in society and, enhance access to justice. In so doing, it aims to transform the society,” CJ Koome told participants at the 3rd Annual Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) Conference at Kabarak University in Nakuru.

She noted that AJS is significant in closing the justice gap in accordance with Article 159 (2)(c) of the Constitution which calls upon the Judiciary to promote alternative forms of dispute resolution, including reconciliation, mediation, arbitration and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.

“AJS entails the mechanisms that are deeply ingrained in cultural fabric that communities across Kenya, since time immemorial, have utilized to resolve conflicts,” she observed.

The CJ noted that these mechanisms range from the council of elders in many ethnic groups to negotiated settlements among aggrieved parties to reconciliation agreements, including organic restorative justice within and by communities.

“Once these mechanisms are aligned with the Bill of Rights, we can utilize them fully to reduce the justice gap,” said the CJ.

Justice Koome said that already, the Judiciary has rolled out AJS centres in seven Counties and plans were underway for the rollout of AJS across the country.

The CJ called on Kenyans to continue to innovate approaches that enhance access to justice by expanding and re-tooling alternative justice systems.

“These novel methods must ensure that the justice seeker remains at the centre of reform efforts. This means that we re-commit to persistently focus on people’s justice needs and the outcomes they need,” She urged.

Speaking in the same forum, Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika in a speech read on her behalf by Deputy Governor DavidKones, said the AJS centres’ role in promoting a just social order, emphasizing reconciliation, and fostering peaceful co-existence is crucial in empowering individuals to reach their full potential.

“The efforts to strengthen the Alternative Justice System in Nakuru are encouraging, especially in addressing the lengthy resolution processes for land and family disputes. It’s crucial to enhance these systems to provide effective and efficient dispute-resolution mechanisms for our community. AJS is cost-effective and efficient in resolving disputes.” Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika said.

Mandera County Governor Mohamed Khalif, who attended the conference observed that AJS also locally known as Maslaha is the mainstream method of accessing justice in Mandera.

“It is through AJS that disputes are settled, harmony restored and social cohesion maintained. AJS restores relationships as it is done in consonance with shared social norms and traditions,” said Governor Khalif.

Judicial Service Commission Commissioner Isaac Rutto called on the Council of Governors to embrace AJS in all 47 counties.

“As we traverse this county as JSC, we have been shocked by the distance people have to cover to reach the nearest court. AJS on the other hand is available within communities and should be utilized as long as it is within the limitations outlined in the Bill of Rights and other laws,” urged Commissioner Rutto

Justice (Prof) Joel Ngugi noted that this year’s conference is the largest with 600 delegates drawn from all 47counties and it is clear AJS has become a Social Justice Movement.

 

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