The Kenya Community Support Center (KECOSCE) in partnership with the Paralegals Society of Kenya and the Judiciary has trained 100 paralegals to assist residents of Tana River County with access to justice.
The training and recruitment of paralegals in the County are funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Phylis Muema KECOSCE’s Executive Director said the 100 paralegals have been trained to carry out investigations, collect relevant evidence, and create a case file that can be used in court.
“They bring the files to the center and act as intermediaries between the victims and the court, their work is to reduce the cost of accessing justice by taking the burden from the victims,” she said.
The paralegals have also been trained to appeal cases, seek mediation, and negotiate cases with the court on behalf of the victims as guided by the parties involved.
They will also be incorporated in the council of elders’ panels that shall be commissioned later in the month as an alternative justice system.
“Some of the cases that shall be given to the elders to decide will need a lot of guidance, especially on constitutional guidelines since the decision by the elders on a matter will be directly adopted by the court,” said Senior Principal Magistrate of Garsen High Court, Hon Paul Rotich.
According to Rotich, the paralegals will be sentimental to the society as they shall resolve lots of pending injustices hence inspiring a peaceful society.
Rotich also noted that the paralegals will be resourceful in mobile courts, as they will help the court in research in certain cases to ensure justice is served.
National Coordinator of Paralegals Society of Kenya Mary Airo noted that the commissioning of paralegals in Tana River County is a huge milestone in bolstering efforts for access to justice.
However, she appealed to the National Assembly to allocate a budget for the salaries of paralegals, to encourage the work they do to ensure peaceful coexistence in the society.
“The council of elders can be biased, but not in the presence of a paralegal, the paralegal brings the equilibrium; they are the voice of reason and justice in these flanked areas,” she said.
Airo further encouraged organizations to support the training and recruitment of more paralegals in the flanked areas of the county.
She noted that failure to resolve an injustice results in a depressed society full of bitterness.
For years, Tana Delta residents have been forced to travel long distances in search of legal aid and to access justice.
This has depleted their little resources hence hampering access to justice, resulting in feuds between communities.
Nathan Bonaya, an elder in Sera Village hailed the commissioning of the paralegals terming it a solution to resource-based conflicts between the pastoralists and farmers.
With the court services only offered in Garsen town, victims find it difficult to travel frequently for mentions due to the high costs of traveling hence giving up the chase for justice.
Residents cannot hire lawyers as they cannot meet the costs; hence, their case doesn’t proceed.
By Sadik Hassan