Is the Kenyan Criminal Justice System fit for purpose?

April 24, 2019    0 comment

Bandung Africa proposes a two day conference in November at Strathmore University, involving lecture and panel discussions, with networking events to discuss strategies and policies to counter terrorism and violent extremism in the context of the Criminal Justice System reforms endorsed by the Chief Justice. The purpose is to examine the progress being made to develop our strategy to combat terrorism and anti- extremism since the Westgate attack. The recent Riverside attack, the Garissa atrocity and those thwarted by the security services underline the necessity of having an open and transparent dialogue to address the on going threat to Kenyan society posed by violent extremism.


This continues the discussions that were held during our November conference in Nairobi. The UNDP policy paper, Issue No 1, October 2017, “Articulating the pathways of the impact of terrorism and violent extremism on the Kenyan economy”, sets out the major social and economic implications of terrorism that Kenya has faced in recent years.

The necessity of having a National Debate on the reform of the Criminal Justice System, especially corruption and anti terrorism is highlighted by the 20th meeting of the National Council for the Administration of Justice held in Navaisha that resulted in a statement, on February 7th 2019, which stated,

“There will be enhanced capacity building among institutions through training on cross-cutting issues affecting the administration of justice.”

The NCAJ detailed a number of initiatives including,

  • New approaches to the administration of justice shall be adopted, such as the integration of plea bargaining in criminal justice in order to expedite the conclusion of cases.
  • We shall endeavour to leverage on the use of technology in the whole justice sector, from investigations, prosecution and judicial processes. This will include, where necessary, prompting legislative changes to allow evidence from non-traditional sources such as CCTV.
  • In order to improve governance and enrich citizen faith in the criminal justice system, members agreed to improve transparency and accountability in their individual systems and procedures.
  • In order to eliminate bottlenecks in the fight against corruption, the Council resolved to set up a committee to identify key challenges and make proposals that will engender greater efficiencies.


The Bandung Conference recommendations have already highlighted a number of reforms such as the introduction of suspended sentences, electronic tagging of offenders on remand to reduce the prison population, the use of part time Judges and Magistrates to clear the back log of cases and the adoption of alternative dispute resolution. The resources freed from a Justice system disproportionality targeting the poor and vulnerable would more easily address corruption, serious violent and sexual offences, and offences of terrorism and violent extremism.

The report by the Kenyatta University Institutional Repository, entitled, “Security sector reforms and their implication in fighting against terrorism in Kenya (1998-2015), also contains a detailed analysis of the extent of the problem and some solutions (

Our debate will enable a constructive dialogue to examine how we can work to implement the reforms proposed in the 2015 audit of the Criminal Justice System and explore how the Pan African jurist community can assist in that process.

Criminal Justice Reforms: A Work in Progress?

The Bandung conference held at the Crown Plaza hotel on November 22nd and 23rd 2018 highlighted a number of concerns within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in Kenya. These have largely been addressed by the 2015 Audit of the National Council on the Administration of Justice Administration of Justice Committee. The implementation work is being carried out by Justice Joyce Nyenga, of the High Court of Kenya (Criminal Division), appointed by the Chief Justice of Kenya in January 2018.

The introductory remarks of the Audit summarise the findings as follows:-

“Key findings of the Audit confirm that Kenya’s Criminal Justice System is largely skewed against the poor. It is an indictment of a system that is expected to guarantee justice to people from all walks of life, including all forms of vulnerabilities. The Audit found that more poor people are arrested, charged and sent to prison as compared to the well to do. It was an interesting finding that economic driven and social disturbance offences which are rated as petty; such as offences relating to lack of business licenses, being drunk and disorderly and creating disturbance form 70% of cases processed through the justice system. A major concern as per the findings was that, serious offences such as organized crimes, capital offences and sexual offences were found to have the highest rate of acquittal and withdrawals.

This public lecture and discussions are designed to widen that debate and highlight the urgent reforms that should assist the implementation of key changes. The idea is to engage with the Pan African Legal and Judicial Diaspora community as a resource that can be utilised to act as a catalyst for positive change. Given the nature of the event the Law Society of Kenya should be asked to endorse two CPD points.

The key stakeholders that will be consulted are the existing participants of the Bandung Conference namely, The African Prison Project; The Kenyan Prison Service; The Law Society of Kenya; The National Kenya Police Force; The Chief Justice and members of the Senior Judiciary; the Solicitor General; Strathmore University; Kenya Law School, The Kenyan Diaspora Association, The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, and the U.S. Embassy, the U.K., The Canadian and Australian High Commissioner, the Auditor General of Kenya and leading NGO’s such as the Kenyan Human Rights Commission.


Aims and Objectives of the Public Lecture and Panel Discussions

  • To highlight and reinforce the reforms recommended in the 2015 Audit;
  • To engage stakeholders to ensure those reforms are implemented;
  • To utilise the resources and experience of the legal and Judicial community of the Pan African Diaspora;
  • To share good practice throughout Kenya and the East African region
  • To discuss our strategic response to terrorism in Kenya and the region
  • To engage a community led response to violent extremism.


First Day: Thursday, November 28th 2019. (Strathmore University)
Second Day: Friday, November 29th 2019. (Strathmore University)
Gala Human Rights Award Dinner @ Crowne Plaza Hotel, Saturday 30th November.


Strathmore University School of Law
Sponsorship:- The aim would be to raise corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of the events, promotional material., catering, conference report etc.
Proposed Delegate Costs per day = Delegate rate of 5,000 KSH (8,000 KSH for both days)
Students 1500 KSH per day or 2,000 KSH for both days
Cost for the Gala Dinner and two days conference 12,000 KSH (Students 7,000 KSH)
Gala Dinner booked separately 6,000 KSH (Students 5,000 KSH)

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