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Blackouts, no stationery as Judiciary budget cuts bite in Nyanza

Friday December 13 2019
KLC

The Kisumu Law Courts as pictured on October 23,2019. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By RUSHDIE OUDIA

From lack of basic stationery to power outages, courts operations in Nyanza continue to be hampered as the reality of budget cuts dawns on the Judiciary.

A number of judicial staff at the Kisumu Law Courts revealed that the facility has run out of sugar and milk.

They are to look for other alternatives or operate without the tea they are accustomed to.

CONCERN

Judicial staff, lawyers and even convicts are now raising serious concerns about the crisis has delated hearings and appeals.

Last week, against the norm, the case list which is usually typed, printed and pinned on notice boards was written on foolscaps, which were later photocopied and distributed to all the boards.

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Court users were seen struggling to read the lists due to illegibility of some writings.

It has now emerged that lack of photocopying paper and other essential stationery is delaying court proceedings and subsequent delivery of verdicts.

ALARMING

In an interview with the Nation, Mr Bruce Odeny, Western Region's Chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, termed the situation dire and alarming.

"Lawyers and parties involved in cases rely on typed proceedings to lodge appeals. The situation is worrying because there are timelines within which an appeal should be filed. With lack of proceedings, there is a delay," said Mr Odeny.

By the end of last Friday, a number of lawyers were yet to receive copies of typed proceedings in some of the cases that have been concluded in court.

"Several appeals could be trashed on grounds of technicality if they are filed outside the stipulated time because of the delays," said Mr Odeny.

BLACKOUTS

For the better part of last week, the Kisumu Law Courts suffered power outages which also paralysed operations.

The court had a backup generator but since there was no fuel, officials said they remained in darkness.

A number of lawyers and their clients spent several hours waiting in the corridors for different services owing to the delays.

"The crisis is too serious. It forces some of us to intervene in situations where the administration cannot afford to make payments. During the blackout last week, most court rooms were very dark. Our members have been forced to chip in to type copies of proceedings," said Mr Odeny.

A judicial offer who sought anonymity said, “Despite all these issues, people expect services. Some travelled from far to pursue their cases only to find a blackout."

MARAGA'S APPEAL

The concerns come barely two weeks after Chief Justice David Maraga appealed for more funds to revamp the Judiciary and enable it to undertake its duties successfully.

Speaking during the launch of the Tamu Law courts in Muhoroni, the CJ noted urgent need to strengthen the Judiciary to improve Kenya's stability.

He asked for 2.5 per cent of the national budget, noting thay they could not do much with one per cent.

CJ Maraga said that in the last two years, the Judiciary has significantly improved infrastructure though construction of court houses.

In Nyanza, only Kisumu High Court has been revamped. The other court rooms still have old furniture, poor ventilation and dysfunctional fans.

Judiciary Chef Registrar Anne Amadi echoed Mr Maraga's sentiments, saying only 70 development activities were taking place as they only get 0.69 per cent of the national budget.

The fear is that court operations will grind to a halt if a solution is not found. The delays will hit convicts hardest as it will take long to hear their appeals.

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