, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – The backlog of cases in Kenya’s courts is now raising questions about the capacity of the country’s judicial system with a recent study indicating nearly one million pending cases countrywide.
The study which was conducted by Nairobi University lecturer Beneah Mutsotso on behalf of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya chapter shows that there are 998,263 cases that are awaiting conclusion at the High Courts and magistrate courts in Kenya.
During the launch of the study on Thursday, Mr Mutsotso said the survey which was done between February and March this year also showed that the oldest undetermined case was 26 years old.
“The oldest reported case was filed in 1984 and by the time we were concluding this study it had not yet been resolved. Others are 10 years old and there are hundreds of thousands of court cases especially those dealing with accidents that are still pending,” he said.
Of the pending court cases, 209,668 cases were before the High Courts while 788,595 were in the magistrates’ courts.
Mr Mutsotso said creating an alternative dispute resolution mechanism would help unclog the overwhelmed judicial system.
“Part of what we can do, because some of the cases are quite minor like small accidents, is withdrawing them and solving them outside the court because a court like the Nairobi High Court has a very big number of pending cases,” he said.
According to the research study dubbed ‘Overview of the baseline survey on the perils of accessing justice among the vulnerable populations in Kenya’, there were about 416,134 unresolved traffic cases while 190,969 and 122,159 were unresolved civil and criminal cases respectively.
Land matters, affiliation matters and unclassified cases had 10,189, 10,432 and 8,922 pending cases respectively.
The survey also showed that there had been a high exodus of magistrates: “For example between 2005 and 2009, 43 magistrates resigned. The country has 46 High Court judges instead of the required 50, 11 Court of Appeal Judges and 282 magistrates hence the congestion and the delays experienced.”
On her part FIDA Executive Director Grace Maingi said the proposed Constitution if passed, would help the country realise judicial reforms that would help solve some of the challenges facing Kenya’s courts.
Mr Mutsotso added that the survey also showed that the physical and technical environment at the courts was not conducive as some lacked public lavatories and computers for data entry and storage.
“There are some things which may look trivial but they are actually serious. For example in some courts there are no toilets and the few that are there are inaccessible to the public. They are under lock and key and have a ‘staff only’ notice,” he said.