• The team will help to decongest the courts and allow people who cannot afford to hire lawyers to represent them to access justice at the community level.
• Panel chairperson Kitheka Mwendwa said on Tuesday during the launch that the team has successfully settled 31 cases, with only six pending.
A team trained to arbitrate disputes among members of the community in Madogo, Tana River county, has been launched.
The Alternative Justice System panel was launched on Tuesday by Chana Chena community-based organisation in partnership with UNDP.
The team will help to decongest the courts and allow people who cannot afford to hire lawyers to represent them to access justice at the community level.
The panel, which draws its members from elders, religious leaders, women and youth, will work with chiefs and the police to preside over small cases. These cases include land and cattle conflicts and other family-related disputes.
Panel chairperson Kitheka Mwendwa said on Tuesday during the launch that the team has successfully settled 31 cases, with only six pending.
“We are dealing with cases of community members who cannot afford to go to court. We are also working with the police and chiefs so they can refer the small cases that can be handled at the community level,” Mwendwa said.
“The AJS panel here has also involved women and youth who for a long time have not been involved in such councils due to the cultural practices.”
Samaha Habona, a member of the panel, said having women on the panel will help many others to come out and present their cases without fear.
“In our culture, for a long time, we have not been recognised to sit on these kinds of panels where major decisions are made. Our fellow women will now be free to approach the panel for dispute resolutions without fear,” she said.
Fatin Hassan Said, from the Chana Chena organisation, said they have trained community paralegal teams to sensitise members on their rights and guide them on how to access justice when aggrieved.
“Sometimes, the courts have very long processes and our communities in Tana River county are poor such that they cannot afford to pay the charges. With the alternative justice system, the communities can sit down with the panel and solve their issues within a short period,” he said.
“We have trained the panel members on how they will be handling the cases without favouring any side and serve justice equally.”
Said urged the national government administration officers and police to recognise and work with the panel for the benefit of citizens.
Madogo assistant county commissioner Kenneth Akwiri said the panel will help reduce the backlog of cases in the courts.
“We are here to familiarise the citizens with the alternative justice system, those that the panel will be working with and the cases the panel will be able to adjudicate and the ones they can’t handle,” Akwiri said.
“The panel will not be allowed to deal with cases involving gender-based violence, criminal cases or treason. We have told them what they can’t do.”
The Constitution provides an overarching guarantee on access to justice for all persons.
However, that access to justice has been hampered by high court fees, geographical access, understaffing of the Judiciary and case backlog.
The constitution further provides for the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution for all citizens.
Edited by A.N