Judiciary budget cut will deny Kenyans justice, says CJ Martha Koome

Chief Justice Martha Koome (centre), Uasin Gishu County Governor Jonathan Bii (second left) and other senior Judiciary officers and county staff launch the Uasin Gishu Alternative Justice Systems County Action Plan Model and Suite at the Moiben Trading Centre in Uasin Gishu May 30, 2024. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Chief Justice (CJ) Martha Koome has faulted the decision to cut the Judiciary’s budget by half.

Speaking during the launch of Uasin Gishu County Alternative Justice Systems (AJS) action plan, Koome expressed disappointment over low funding.

She said it would be difficult for the Judiciary to carry out some of its operations if it is not allocated at least Sh44 billion as proposed.

“If we ask for Sh44 billion and we get only Sh22 billion, then we can only meet half of the courts’ needs. I wonder how you can cut justice in half,” she stated.

The CJ stated the reduction of budgetary allocation continues to hinder the plan to establish more courts in sub-counties.

“The proposed amount would help us move to all constituencies, create special courts including GBV courts, children courts and ensure access to justice for all,” said Koome.

Chief Registrar Winfridah Mokaya said the Judiciary has had to rationalise expenditure as it receives about 50 per cent of its annual resource requirements.

“In the coming year for instance, we are set to receive just Sh22.7 billion out of our requirement of Sh44.9 billion,” she stated

Mokaya said the Treasury and Parliament should realise that justice is just as important as security, education and health.

“I have noted that our case for funding is often based on the proof of growing caseload and resultant staffing – especially judges – and infrastructure needs. This case is perhaps both under-appreciated and under-developed,” added the Chief Registrar.

While announcing that a permanent Court of Appeal will be established in Eldoret, the CJ continued her campaign for Alternative Justice System (AJS) as a multi-door approach in solving disputes and access to justice.

“The people are the owners of justice. It belongs to the people and therefore we can resolve our own disputes outside court,” said Koome. 

She hailed Uasin Gishu and Narok counties for partnering with the Judiciary to establish AJS suites.

The President of the Supreme Court said AJS upholds the principle of inclusion even in seeking justice, noting that many succession issues can be resolved using the system.

“Why are we leaving single mothers behind? Our law of succession and our constitution in general says that we include everyone in sharing property. We should not be fighting over inheritance and filing cases in courts when families can talk and solve their own issues. You do not need a third party to tell you how to share family property,” the CJ said.

She said embracing traditional mechanisms of resolving disputes outside courts, especially on land issues, which are prevalent in the North Rift region, is the way to go.

“This is an innovative, cost-effective and people-centred approach to resolving conflicts,” she stated.

She, however, explained that criminal cases and sexual offences such as defilement, rape, murder, robbery with violence and gender-based violence (GBV) cannot be mediated.

Justice Joel Ngugi noted that AJS utilizes existing mechanisms for access to justice. “This is because we seek to bring justice through ways that the people understand, through their own culture, religion and traditions, all in a bid to cure the problems affecting society,” said Justice Ngugi of the of Court of Appeal.

Uasin Gishu County becomes the fifth county to receive an AJS court after Kajiado, Nakuru, Turkana and Narok.

Eldoret High Court Presiding  Judge Reuben Nyakundi termed the launch as a milestone.

Nyakundi noted that Eldoret courts have cases that have been pending since 1980s and said AJS will help in saving time and reducing backlog.

“The remaining five sub-counties in Uasin Gishu County require physical infrastructure and staff to operate courts,” said Nyakundi.

Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Commissioner Isaac Rutto said cases involving succession and land-related matters that affect many people in the region will be addressed through AJS.

Governor Jonathan Bii said his government will promote AJS by providing necessary resources and creating awareness on the role played by AJS.

Moiben MP Phyllis Bartoo hailed the initiative saying it will foster harmonious living among communities.

Turbo MP Janet Sitienei said the AJS will reduce case backlog in the courts.