Kenya’s Alternative Justice Systems Taskforce will launch its Alternative Justice System Policy framework aimed at enhancing access to and expeditious delivery of Justice.
Further, the Policy, among other things, recognizes as Alternative Justice Systems as a legitimate system of resolving disputes as provided for in the Constitution of Kenya.
The policy has been developed by the Taskforce on Traditional, Informal and Other Mechanisms Used to Access Justice in Kenya which was gazetted in 2016 by the former Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga.
Justice Joel Ngugi (Prof.) the Chairperson of the task force during a webinar on “The Youth in Alternative Justice System Promoting Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) in Kenya”, he disclosed that from their findings, 80-90 percent of Kenyans utilize alternative mechanisms to obtain justice.
Prof Ngugi said that AJS act as a bridge to access justice because “They are the preferred forms of justice, consonant with their norms. AJS is a bridge to grounded justice.”
Most Kenyans shy from the formal court systems because of the high cost, and its intimidating nature.
As a result, AJS mechanisms have minimum formalities and are able to come up with innovative remedies. “It is also a form for victims to participate,” he says.
The Kenyan Constitution provides for the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution mechanisms including traditional dispute resolution mechanisms as long as the traditional dispute resolution mechanisms do not contravene the Bill of Rights or are repugnant to justice or morality.
“Recognizing that dispute resolution processes differ from community to community and vary in scope, the Judiciary has established a multi-stakeholder task force to formulate an appropriate judicial policy on Alternative Justice Systems and to consider the methodology and viability of mainstreaming Alternative Justice Systems; and to suggest concrete ways of doing so,” according to Gazette Notice No.1339 that led to the establishment of the Taskforce members in 2016.
Jedidah Wakonyo, Commissioner of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights during the webinar noted that the justice system has witnessed a serious administration of justice challenge.
“AJS is one of the models, however, we need to have a trans-formative law reform in respect to nature and components of crime in the Penal code to begin to decriminalise and declassify crimes either due to colonial history, petty or poverty,” she said.
Victor Kapiyo, Lawyer, and Researcher at Lawmark Partners LLP also encouraged the taskforce to also look at how technology can be embraced within the system.
According to Kapiyo, technology can enhance communication efficiency, it can provide frameworks where users can resolve matters, and reduce cost. Further, it can provide transparency and demystify the legal process.
“We need to change mindsets and embrace technology and also provide the funding to develop these systems and to ensure their availability across all the counties in Kenya for the justice system,” he said.
Justice Joel Ngugi further reiterated that promoting AJS was not an attempt to “devolve” the Judiciary.
“It is more an attempt to animate Articles 10, 11, 44, 48, and 159(2)(c) of the Constitution,” he says adding that “As for the courts being traditional, there is a need to continue engaging them to make sure that they are in keeping with our ideas of justice.”
During the launch, the AJS Taskforce will share its proposed AJS policy and its implementation framework in Kenya from its four models.