3 September 2020
NAIROBI, 3 September 2020 — Today's launch of a major policy to mainstream customary or traditional forms of justice in Kenya by the Chief Justice David Maraga has been welcomed by the European Union and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the two key partners in the policy's development.
The Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) Baseline Policy and associated Policy Framework have symbolically been released on Katiba Day on the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya.
The Constitution requires that the Judiciary promote traditional methods of dispute resolution.
For the past two years, the EU and UNODC have supported the Judiciary and its multi-stakeholder Task Force on the Traditional, Informal and Other Mechanisms for Dispute Resolution in Kenya (AJS Task Force) with formulating the policy and determining the viability and concrete means of mainstreaming AJS.
Speaking at the live-streamed launch at the Supreme Court, the EU Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Simon Mordue said, that he hoped the AJS Policy would have far-reaching consequences in fostering effective access to justice for all Kenyans.
"What's being launched today is a cornerstone policy for Kenya, one that will ultimately bring customary and traditional means of dispute resolution from the periphery into the mainstream, and recognize the legitimate place of alternative systems in the contemporary justice administration in this country," Ambassador Mordue stated.
"I urge decision-makers to put the necessary structures in place to ensure the success of AJS mechanisms and processes, as envisioned in the Constitution and highlighted by the Taskforce," he added.
As key partners to the Judiciary in this policy's development, the EU and UNODC have provided wide-ranging support through the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD).
This included engaging several expert consultants who reinforced the Task Force and assisted with the policy and framework drafting processes, staging more than eight working retreats and discussion forums, as well as communications support including video production, graphic design and printing services.
In upholding international standards and norms, UNODC has taken great interest in the policy's intent and content, for example, on the protection of the most vulnerable and the nature of cases appropriate for AJS, including contributing to the debate on cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
"It's been a privilege for UNODC to partner with the AJS Task Force and the EU in the complex process of developing the baseline policy and framework," the UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés said.
"The process of mainstreaming AJS has received a boost today, but much remains to be done to ensure the policy is fully adopted and the strategic objectives and overall recommendations of the Task Force are addressed. UNODC remains committed to supporting the full adoption of the policy," Dr. de Andrés concluded.
Many Kenyans have contributed to shaping the AJS Baseline Policy, including Councils of Elders, Civil Society Organisations and Court Users Committees, and are now expected to be instrumental in putting it into effect.
A Justice Needs Survey conducted in 2017 suggested that up to 95 per cent of the disputes in Kenya were resolved through informal and non-State-based means outside of courts. These informal means include a myriad of dispute resolution processes of which AJS is just one.
One specific PLEAD target is to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the backlog of criminal cases by 2022. By dealing with appropriate disputes quickly and more cost effectively, AJS is seen as an effective mechanism for reducing case backlog in the courts.
What is AJS?
AJS can be defined as the administration of justice by the people using their culture, customary law, practices and beliefs to resolve disputes. AJS is a form of restorative justice which aims to ensure social inclusion, and is generally more affordable, participatory and expeditious than court processes.
Alternative justice processes help to reduce the burden on courts and are meant to strengthen the links between formal and informal justice systems rather than replace the reliance on courts.
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