CJ Koome’s access to justice initiative extends to the refugee town of Kakuma
KAKUMA, Kenya, August 29, 2023
Chief Justice Martha Koome’s pursuit of enhanced access to justice for the most vulnerable in society has extended to Kakuma, a town synonymous with the refugee population.
It’s here that CJ Koome launched an Alternative Justice Systems model and rolled out e-filing of cases on Tuesday in a monumental step towards an accessible, people-centred justice system.
“It is also vital to acknowledge the commendable spirit of the residents of Kakuma in embracing refugees, who often stand on the precipice of vulnerability. Your sense of community and coexistence serves as a beacon for the entire nation,” she said at the Kakuma Law Courts.
She reaffirmed the Judiciary’s commitment to ensuring that the courts cater to both the host community and the refugee populace and urged them to foster peace and harmony.
“Should disputes arise, I urge you to utilize the avenues provided by the AJS or our courts, ensuring that conflicts remain rare and short-lived.”
She urged Kenyans to embrace the rich tapestry of traditions, upheld by community elders, which have always provided pathways to justice.
Speaking during the event , Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi said the launch of the justice initiatives would expand access to justice to a community that has historically been categorized among the marginalized in Kenya, owing to the adverse climatic conditions, a challenging terrain, and the distance from the nation’s capital.
“For decades, this community was served only by the court in Lodwar which is 120km from Kakuma, and even further from other parts of the expansive County. Since 2013, the people from around here have been able to access the Judiciary’s services in Kakuma following the establishment of this Court,” Amadi said.
Lawmaker Stephen Mogaka who spoke on behalf of the Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee said Article 48 of the Constitution of Kenya mandates that every person has the right to accessible justice.
“Today, we take significant strides towards fulfilling this promise by launching a system that embraces technology to break geographical barriers. Through E-filing and Alternative Justice System Suites, individuals, regardless of their location, can now access legal services, ensuring that justice is not delayed or denied,” he said.
In her remarks, Chief Justice Koome pledged to gazette additional courts in Lokichar and Lokitaung, following a request by the leadership of Turkana County, led by Deputy Governor Dr John Erus.
She rooted for a multi-door approach to justice, in recognition of the wisdom in these traditional practices.
“By institutionalizing traditional justice mechanisms, we are not merely offering an alternative; we are celebrating our heritage. A heritage that believes in healing over hostility, in community over conflict.”
CJ Koome said AJS offers more than just a resolution to disputes but also reconciliation as it looks beyond the symptoms and addresses the very roots of conflicts, ensuring a harmonious society.
“The people of Turkana have long upheld these traditions, and I urge you to view AJS as a symbol of our commitment to preserving and promoting this wisdom. Embrace it, not as a new initiative but as a tribute to our age-old values and practices,” she implored.
She however cautioned elders and other practitioners of AJS that issues relating to the defilement of children do not fall within the remit of AJS.
“When you come across an incident of defilement of a child, you must refer such a case to the police and the courts for it to be dealt with as a criminal offense,” she cautioned.
She pointed out that even though Constitution and laws champion the ideals of gender equality and justice, crimes like sexual and gender-based violence remain a blot on our collective conscience.
“We, in the Judiciary, are actively working to transform our courts into trauma-informed sanctuaries that stand in solidarity with victims of such heinous crimes.”
The Chief Justice said digital innovations are continuously reshaping every sector of society and the Judiciary – the guardian of constitutional democracy – has embraced the promise of technology to redefine how justice is dispensed in Kenya.
“The introduction of E-filing in Turkana, making it the ninth county to join this initiative, is a significant milestone in this direction. No longer will you, our brothers and sisters in expansive regions like Turkana, be burdened with long, arduous journeys to court premises,” CJ Koome assured.
She said the Judiciary was establishing assistance desks at Huduma Centres across the country to ensure that the gap between justice and those who seek it does not widen.
She restated that the Judiciary is pursuing a collaborative approach with other actors in the justice sector to ensure that no one or institution is left behind.
“The Judiciary’s e-filling system is already integrated with the Uadilifu system of the ODPP, reflecting our aspiration for an integrated and efficient justice ecosystem. This synergy reiterates the importance of unified efforts in delivering justice.”
She reminded all of the ever-looming threat of climate change, which casts a long shadow, especially in areas like Turkana, where the adverse effects manifest in droughts and famine.
“The global discourse is gradually shifting towards green justice, focusing on community resilience and adaptation to these environmental challenges. I implore all stakeholders, from governmental agencies to development partners working in Turkana, to rally together. Let us support this community in its pursuit of alternative energy sources and resilience-building endeavours.”