The International Commission of Jurists has challenged the Voi and Wundanyi Court Users Committees, popularly known as CUCs, to hold more awareness campaigns aimed at building public confidence in the local Judiciary and other alternative dispute resolution forums.

The team of ICJ officials, led by Ms Teresa Mutua, was speaking at a rare joint session of Voi and Wundanyi CUCs, whose membership includes representatives from the Magistracy, Police, Prisons, CID, Probation, Court Prosecutors, Journalists, KWS, Children Officers, the local branch of the Law Society of Kenya and religious organizations among other Judiciary stake-holders.

Dubbed a “Dialogue Forum”, the workshop, held at a Voi Hotel, was sponsored by the ICJ, whose officials shared out their personal and collective experiences gained through their recent official tours of Kisumu, Kitui, Eldoret and Mombasa Court Stations on similar capacity-building missions mandated by the reform-filled Judicial Service Act.

The judicial reforms, the ICJ officials emphasized, are people-focused.

The National Council for Administration of Justice, NCAJ whose members include the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice among other national organs, is established under the Judicial Service Act, of which the Voi and Wundanyi CUCs are local affiliates.

Contributing to the lively interactive exchange, Honorable Eugene Kadima, Voi Court 3 Resident Magistrate who has served at the Station since 2012, cited Voi CUCs operational challenges as lack of adequate infrastructure, including modern Court rooms and a juvenile holding facility, as well as, inadequate staff. He expressed the hope that soon mobile courts will be established in Kasighau and Mackinon Road areas, to serve their residents who are compelled to travel long distances to Voi Law Courts, consequently spending their meager resources, in search of justice.

Although Chief Justice Willy Mutunga appointed a resident High Court Judge for Voi Station effective from 1st September this year, the local CUC is, currently, frantically searching for a suitable venue to house the new Judge’s Court operations due to infrastructural challenges.

During the official launch of the Voi High Court Sub Registry in June last year, Taita Taveta Governor Eng. John Mruttu, whose vision is to establish the County Headquarters in Mgeno-a rural suburb of Mwatate Town barely 5 kilometers away, encouraged the local Judiciary to take advantage of the model Mgeno City which has provided for a large tract of land for the Judiciary, with vast potential for expansion.

In July 2014, Voi CUC held a public baraza at Mbololo Chief’s Camp whose successful conclusion led to the decision to hold the subsequent forum in Marungu Ward in late April this year, which coincided with Senator Dan Mwazo’s baraza held at the same venue earlier the same day.

Lately, the heavy presence of Voi CUC and Government Departmental heads at these public forums dubbed “ Government meeting the people”, have come to signify a marked departure from the past, where local residents now freely query capricious administrative actions and other societal ills.

During the Mbololo Chief’s Baraza, for instance, a curious female resident wondered why the local Taita ‘mbangara’ traditional brew is not licenced, while ‘mnazi’, an alcoholic drink manufactured and consumed mainly in the lower Coastal region, enjoys legal protection?

On their part, Wundanyi CUC, led by Court 2 Resident Magistrate Hon. Gerald Gitonga, decried the tiny space at the Wundanyi Law Courts, ensconced between several other surrounding Government facilities, while some endeavored to establish the connection between the poor state of the Mwatate-Wundanyi road to the large number of un-executed Court Warrants of Arrest issued against criminal offenders for failure to honor Court appointments, for various reasons.

Separated by 45 kilometers of good and bad roads, the points of convergence between the two Voi and Wundanyi Court Stations, however, besides the common infrastructural challenges, is their common desire, expressed in their work plans geared towards better engagement with their local communities through outreach programs and other public participatory formulas.

Duncan Mwanyumba,
Voi City, Thursday, August 6, 2015

Duncan Mwanyumba is a practicing advocate of the High Court of Kenya currently based in Voi City, Coast Province of Kenya, a cultural enthusiast, and a member of both the Voi/Wundanyi CUCs.