Justice thats not so just
NAIROBI, Kenya, July 18 -- They say that justice delayed is justice denied and Kenyans know it more than anyone else. With a backlog of 800,000 cases we cannot hide the fact that Kenya is a very unjust country. This tough and heart breaking revelation was made by Omar Hassan, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights vice-chair. He was speaking on Kiss 100 Radio’s Big Breakfast show with Carolyn Mutoko on 15th July 2009 on the judiciary.
'The notion that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty is like an insult to Kenya’s eroded justice system. The 16,000 capacity prisons are home to over 46,000 remands remember that convicts are not included.' he said. 'Hardly have they had any justice, than they have already served a term enough for a convicted felon.' He went on to say that, 'Often they end up picking up some even worse habits from hardcore criminals.' With this in mind one cannot help notice that the judicial system is exposed to the ills of corruption and discreet mismanagement.
The poor are therefore on the rocks. For the forgotten man, getting arrested is the most dreaded of all. He knows that getting 5000 shillings to buy freedom from a government agent is out of the question. The rich kid on the other hand, no matter what despicable crime he commits; justice will be meted by a simple trip to the bank.
Back to the failing justice system, a country of well over 30 million people has 54 judges and not more than 300 magistrates on provincial courts’ benches. So, how they are expected to handle cases one is left to wonder. With case after case being filed on each and every day, and a host of other pending cases? No wonder! Omar also put in some suggestions quoted saying,'We need to uphold a rule that the appointment of judges be equated to population density.'
However, the grim picture is about to change. The Kenyan finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta is set to change all this. 'He has set aside a budget to up the number of judges to 80. The question is; will they ease the backlog?' Said Omar as he revealed his discontent with the move. In a country full of irony, the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the ineffective anticorruption tsar, collectively earn a salary of over 8 million shillings (107,000 U.S dollars) each month. This is enough to pay 80 extra judges at an average monthly salary of 100,000 shillings each.
A raison d'être needs to be arrived at in this juncture. One that will restore the confidence vested on the judicial system. According former United Nations secretary general Dr. Kofi Annan, 'Kenya needs an overhaul of the whole system. With the suspects who caused the 2008 ethnic violence still at large, bringing them to book on Kenyan soil may be the turning point in renewing public confidence in the judicial system,' he also said that, 'It may put emphasis in the importance of rights and justice.'
Another thorn is the civil society. Most Kenyans I have talked to believe that the civil society has done little to pressure for good governance and a just judiciary. Some on the other hand are of the opinion that politics’ bad habits have crept up the watchdog’s sleeve. 'We really do not know who is with or who is against us.' Says a newspaper vendor on Moi Avenue in downtown Nairobi. Kenyans say that the political elite only uses civil groups for personal endeavors. Mr. Hassan Omar has given a flicker of hope though. His passionate talk on the radio station indicated the possibility of a new quest for change is on course. But, we only remain to see if he bites as hard.