Justice Oscar Angote has assumed office as the Presiding Judge of the Environment and Land Court (ELC) at the Milimani Law Courts.
Justice Angote has taken over from Justice Samson Okong’o, who served as the first ELC Presiding Judge since the inception of the Court that is empowered with the responsibility to hear and resolve disputes of the environment and land in Kenya.
Speaking during the swearing-in ceremony held at the Milimani Law Courts grounds, Chief Justice (CJ) and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Justice Martha Koome, stated that the 39 ELC court stations and 51 Judges are the manpower that is capable of ensuring expeditious disposal of environmental and land matters.
“With population growth, there is no doubt that we are bound to face challenges of land scarcity, and with that comes conflict over the access, ownership and use of this valuable asset,” stated the CJ.
Koome asked the Presiding Judge and the judges of the ELC to always note that part of the causes of instability in Kenya relate to land question.
“You have a responsibility of mediating conflicts in relation to property and property rights, to ensure peaceful co-existence of families, communities and the nation at large,” she emphasized.
The CJ called upon the Presiding Judge and all ELC judges, to ensure they meet the target of the courts and to conclude cases within three years of filling to avoid constant complaints on delayed justice and backlog.
She at the same time commended the outgoing Presiding Judge, Justice Samson Okong’o, for setting the bar high for other principal judges and the exceptional commitment towards the lives of the many litigants he touched during his tenure.
In her remarks, the Deputy Chief Justice and Vice President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Justice Philomena Mwilu, reiterated that access to justice on land issues must be proficient since Kenya relies on the agrarian production and agricultural sector, in both subsistence and commercial.
“It is essential that the value of land is not locked up in long winding disputes,” she stressed.
Mwilu added that the value of land for production and as a facilitator for commerce and trade as a security, should be protected and enhanced by effective dispute resolution processes in the courts and tribunals.
The Deputy CJ commended Justice Okong’o for his outstanding service and congratulated Justice Angote for getting the position, noting that she had no doubt that he will build on the progress of ELC and enhance its productivity and effectiveness.
Justice Angote said the Court will continue working with its partners to digitize the court’s system which will go a long way in streamlining its operations.
Angote added that he will continue to build on the programmes Justice Okong’o put in place to strengthen the judiciary professionalism, as well as follow the principles set by CJ Koome which include accessibility, efficiency, transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and shared leadership, cooperative dialogue and social justice.
“I follow in line of remarkable leaders in the Judiciary who have been given the mantle to lead their divisions. As a court we should look beyond our role of resolving land and environment disputes and have a strategic priority for good governance,” said Angote.
Justice Okong’o who assured Justice Angote of his full support also thanked Judges of the ELC and the entire judiciary for their support when he introduced the new working methods and case management strategies.
By Jedida Barasa and Caroline Mbusa