Chief Justice Martha Koome has launched the Alternative Justice System (AJS) model in Kajiado County aimed at reducing case backlogs.
The system, which gives council of elders and religious leaders a bigger role to play in the justice system, is aimed at providing alternative forms of dispute resolution mechanisms including traditional approaches as long as they do not contravene the Constitution.
It is primarily aimed at making justice more easily accessible to Kenyans as well as reducing the number of people being incarcerated for petty crimes.
The CJ revealed that the operationalisation of the AJS will promote access to alternative mechanisms of access to justice beyond courts enabling litigants to have various options in redressing social grievances.
“The launch of the Alternative Justice System (AJS) model in Kajiado County is an additional step geared towards the realization of the goal having in place an accessible, efficient, cost-effective, and expeditious system of justice,” said the CJ.
She noted that the AJS will give Kenyans an alternative of solving disputes faster adding that family disputes are better resolved in a non-adversarial process.
Koome said mediation and reconciliation processes, including those conducted within traditional justice mechanisms, would be ideal for resolution of family disputes.
The CJ said embracing alternative justice in resolving family and community disputes will help maintain cordial relations among families and neighbours once justice is obtained.
“By channelling a significant number of disputes for determination outside the courts, we will avoid the current problem of courts that are swamped and paralyzed with disputes that might be better resolved elsewhere. “ Koome added.
She revealed that the Judiciary was in the process of rolling out Small Claims Courts to solve where disputes of a value not exceeding Sh1 Million would be heard and determined.
The Chief Justice further noted that the World Bank through the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP) had facilitated the construction of 13 new High Courts in the country.
While calling for County Governments to set aside land for building of more Courts, the CJ said it would bring services closer to the public as no litigant should travel for miles to access justice.
“No litigant should travel for more than 100 kilometres to access a court. We hope to have in place a High Court station in every County and a Magistrate’s Court in every sub-county,” CJ Koome said.
Governor Joseph Lenku, who spoke during the event, revealed that his government had set aside land in Namanga and Mashuuru for the Judiciary to build more courts thus enable quick access to justice by residents.
Lenku said the proximity of Kajiado to the Capital City and the availability of land for expansion and new settlement has presented a myriad of challenges, many of which touch on illegal allocation and grabbing of land as well as investors possessing inauthentic land documents.
“Our land challenges range from boundary disputes, land ownership disputes created by allocation of land by the defunct Local Authority which led to double or even multiple allocations.” Lenku said.
He noted that the introduction of Alternative Justice System by the Judiciary could not have come at a better time, as it will help resolve land issues which have often dragged on for years in Court.
“Many Kenyans have, in deed, lost their lives or developed chronic illnesses due to the stress emanating from long winding land disputes,” Lenku said.
The Governor added that alternative justice resolution has proven to work especially in solving land boundary disputes in the County.
“Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism has previously helped solve various land disputes such as the Ildamat versus Iloodokilani adjudication section boundary and Kajiado versus Taita Taveta County boundary dispute which was threatening peace with our neighbours,” he said.
By Rop Janet