Chief Justice (CJ), Martha Koome, has said that children are a bridge to the future and so they should be jealously protected from any form of abuse.
CJ Koome challenged all partners involved in the entire justice system to stand up and be counted for effectively playing their roles in facilitating child protection in line with the law.
She was speaking at the Kisumu Children Remand Home, after touring Kisumu Law Courts where she once served at a lower cadre before finally rising to the coveted position as the first woman Chief Justice in Kenya.
Having toured Kisumu earlier on as the Chairperson for the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), a statutory institution bringing together policy and decision makers from Kenya’s justice sector, the CJ led a special taskforce on children matters at the time.
She pointed out that her visit was a follow up and so gave her commitment as the CJ that her team in the judiciary will ensure all children are protected.
“Our children are like a bridge into the future and so failure to protect them means that we have no business being in these offices,” she declared.
CJ Koome said children are central to the services that we render in the justice system and to this effect she was handed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the children on the challenges they face when kept in the holding institutions.
She explained that during her next visit to Kisumu Remand Home, there will be no children in the justice system since they belong to the respective communities, homes and formal schools.
The CJ revealed that Kisumu Remand Home has 30 children currently, although it has the capacity to house up to 100 children.
“How I pray that next time I come visiting we will find only five children in this facility,” she added.
Koome stated that if this happens then the beautiful home can be converted into an innovation center rather than a correctional facility.
She added that the judiciary runs a program of transcribing (listening to recording of court proceedings, typing the contents up into documents. The document is then handed to clients as records for various uses).
This, she observed, means that we have children trained on computers in the holding facilities whose services can be used while the homes can be converted into innovation centers to support our work in the judicial system. However, she stated that this was still work in progress.
“We plan to make our communities the center for taking care of our children as opposed to institutionalization. We have the Court Users’ Committees which have children’s representations,” stated the CJ.
Koome said no child should be in the justice system for more than a year, adding that justice is a chain-link and everybody is holding a part of it.
She argued that the consumer of justice does not care who is holding which part of the chain. All they want is the delivery of service and so we must continue working together to deliver.
She revealed that her vision as CJ like that of her predecessors, Dr. Willy Mutunga, who laid the foundation for the reforms in the judiciary transformation framework and David Maraga who continued the reforms agenda were not different in any way.
However, she explained that she was using the bottom-up-approach in her effort to further facilitate quick administration of justice.
“I have adopted a bottom’s up approach since the CJ shares power with those who administer justice vertically and horizontally including; Magistrates, Children’s Officers and the Police to ensure timely delivery of justice to the citizen”, she said.
By Joseph Ouma and Joseph Otieno