The Star (Kenya)

Mi­jik­enda el­ders un­veil tra­di­tional court in Kil­ifi

Say they will be used to re­solve cases of witch­craft, mar­i­tal and land dis­putes be­fore they get to gov­ern­ment law courts

- ALPHONCE GARI Crime · Society · Discrimination · Human Rights

Mi­jik­enda Kaya el­ders have opened a tra­di­tional court in Ma­garini to han­dle cases be­fore they reach gov­ern­ment courts.

The courts called ‘Kambi ya Kiama’ in lo­cal di­alect were an­ciently used by el­ders to re­solve com­mu­nal dis­putes and ad­vo­cate peace­ful co­ex­is­tence. El­ders drawn from all the nine Mi­jik­enda Kayas on Wed­nes­day con­verged at the Ma­garini Cul­tural Cen­tre to mark the an­nual Chenda Chenda fes­ti­val and wit­ness the his­toric cer­e­mony.

It was graced by prom­i­nent lawyer Ge­orge Kithi and other lead­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Ma­garini MP Har­ri­son Kombe.

El­ders — both men and women — dressed in full tra­di­tional re­galia first con­ducted rit­u­als at the cen­tre be­fore of­fi­cially un­veil­ing the court.

Kayas re­solved con­flicts such as land dis­putes, fam­ily af­fairs, theft and witch­craft among oth­ers, but the courts van­ished due to moder­nity.

El­ders said lack of the tra­di­tional courts has con­trib­uted to the killings of el­derly men on false al­le­ga­tions of witch­craft, yet most of the cases are land mat­ters.

El­ders’ co­or­di­na­tor Tsuma Nzai Kombe said they launched the court dur­ing the an­nual Chenda Chenda fes­ti­val to pro­mote peace.

He said the tra­di­tional court will be deal­ing with cases re­lated to the cul­tural be­liefs and oth­ers that are dif­fi­cult to be de­cided in gov­ern­ment law courts.

“In court, if a judge is not from our com­mu­nity, hence judg­ing tra­di­tional cases is dif­fi­cult,” he said.

Kithi said the idea was timely and de­served recog­ni­tion by the gov­ern­ment, sim­i­larly to Kad­his Courts for Mus­lims, so they can get pow­ers.

‘’The Con­sti­tu­tion has to recog­nise the courts so that small courts get an op­por­tu­nity to get pro­ce­dures of ap­peal, such that a per­son con­victed by the tra­di­tional courts can ap­peal in other courts like the High Court,” he said.

The lawyer said the tra­di­tional laws are sup­posed to be in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion or those set up by Par­lia­ment.

Kithi said be­fore ap­ply­ing the tra­di­tional laws, he also has to check how the com­mu­ni­ties have been us­ing the tra­di­tional laws.

He said there was sup­posed to be a law to be passed by Par­lia­ment to recog­nise the tra­di­tional court.

As for the Mi­jik­enda, he said, there have to be nine tra­di­tional courts for the nine tribes.

The tra­di­tional laws then have to be con­verted into a de­cree so they be­come or­ders of court like those ex­ist­ing in the Ju­di­ciary, Kithi said.

Kombe said the court would be used to pro­mote peace, adding that since they re­tired, in­se­cu­rity has been on the rise over claims of witch­craft.

Such cases, he said, do not help bring jus­tice to the vic­tim’s fam­ily as get­ting ev­i­dence of witch­craft is hard.

In the tra­di­tional courts, such sus­pects would take oaths and if found to be prac­tis­ing witch­craft, they would be pun­ished.

For­mer leg­is­la­tor Kombe said courts will be han­dled by el­ders, some of whom are still be­ing used by chiefs and their as­sis­tants to re­solve tra­di­tional courts.

He said with the ex­is­tence of the tra­di­tional courts, such cases should be taken with se­ri­ous­ness like those of the law courts.

 ?? /ALPHONCE GARI ?? Mi­jik­enda Kaya el­der Ab­dalla Mnyenze per­forms rit­u­als be­fore the open­ing of the tra­di­tional court by Ge­orge Kithi (striped shirt) at Ma­garini cul­tural cen­tre on Septem­ber 9
/ALPHONCE GARI Mi­jik­enda Kaya el­der Ab­dalla Mnyenze per­forms rit­u­als be­fore the open­ing of the tra­di­tional court by Ge­orge Kithi (striped shirt) at Ma­garini cul­tural cen­tre on Septem­ber 9
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