OGP: Kenya's new commitment on Access to Justice

Kenya has developed and submitted its 4th OGP National Action Plan and it is exciting to note that for the first time , it explicitly includes an access to justice commitment focused on the implementation of the Legal Aid Act and the Alternative Justice Systems Policy . Access to justice remains a high priority especially for indigents without delays or denial.

Both the Legal Aid Act and Alternative Justice Systems are imperative as they set in place legal and policy frameworks for the promotion of access to justice in Kenya.

The Legal Aid Act provides a framework for collaboration between state and non-state actors in legal aid service provision. Further, it establishes a national legal aid scheme that is affordable, accessible, sustainable, credible and accountable among others. However, Kenya is yet to achieve the benefits of the provisions in the Act, specifically access to justice for the indigent Kenyans , due to limited budgetary allocation. Without a Legal Aid Fund, there is limited state funded legal aid which does little to bridge the expanding justice gap.

Kenya is one of 3 countries in the world that has formalised its traditional and other informal mechanisms used in accessing justice. One consequence of access to justice problems in the formal legal system is that many Kenyans resort to alternative systems of justice, such as mediation processes facilitated by paralegals and community-based traditional justice systems. A survey by the Judiciary, together with the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law found that only 10% of Kenyans use the formal justice system to resolve their disputes. 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.

Kenya’s Alternative Justice System (AJS) Policy proposes a legal framework that systematizes the use of various AJS models whilst linking the informal and formal justice systems.

The civil society organization that will lead in the implementation of this ambitious access to justice commitment is Kituo cha Sheria. If you are based in Kenya and interested in participating in the OGP process, please send a message through this platform to @AnnetteMbogoh or comment below.

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We at Kituo cha Sheria are particularly proud to have been involved in the co-creation of the first ever access to justice commitment for Kenya’s OGP National Action Plan 2021-2023. We are positive that increased state funding for legal aid and alternative justice systems will go a long way in improving access to justice for Kenyans. Also addressing the infrastructural gaps in the use of technology for access to justice will enhance provision of legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank all our colleagues at NAMATI, Mzalendo Trust, Judiciary, National Legal Aid Service and Katiba Institute who played a crucial role in this achievement.

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