You can now have your simple case heard by a council of elders, after the Judiciary unveiled a policy that embraces and outlines guidelines for traditional methods of conflict resolution.
The Alternative Justice Systems Policy was launched by Chief Justice David Maraga at the Supreme Court after a four-year period of research, field visits and consultation conducted by a task force appointed by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in 2016.
The system, which gives councils of elders and religious leaders a bigger role to play in the justice system 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 Judiciary has mapped out the institutional guidelines for identifying and promoting alternative systems of justice. One of the core principles laid down in the Constitution to guide the administration of justice is the requirement to embrace alternative forms of dispute resolution, including traditional dispute resolution mechanisms,” said Maraga.
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According to the CJ, Kenyan communities have developed their own justice systems for generations which have held society together all this time.
“While justice dispensed by the courts has occupied centre stage in the administration of justice, the reality is that the vast majority of disputes among Kenyans are resolved through justice systems that are outside the formal court process,” said Maraga.
The launch was attended by representatives of various bodies that had worked together with the task force, including Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations office on Drugs and Crime, Samburu Elders Council and the European Union.
“We traveled to various counties within the country, including Garissa, Isiolo, Baringo, Kangema, Kilifi, Kisumu and Kitui, seeking guidance and knowledge from elders and specialists in these places,” said FAO representative to Kenya Tobias Takavarasha.
Samburu Elders Council Chair Joyce Nairesia said that in Isiolo, the community has for a long time used alternative justice systems to resolve disputes.
“As pastoralists, and especially during scarce times and drought, we find ourselves fighting over resources like water and grass. However, after fully embracing these alternative means of resolving issues, we have seen a reduction of clashes,” said Naiseria.
This policy is an appreciative note to the everyday justice work that community leaders do every day. It is a recognition and legitimisation of their work within the Constitution,” said Alternative Justice Systems Chair Justice Joel Ngugi.