INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTS – KENYA SECTION
JUDICIAL DISCOURSE ON HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION:
THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW AND NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONS
JUDICIAL TRAINING INSTITUTE, NAIROBI, KENYA
18 – 20 FEBRUARY 2015
OPENING REMARKS BY NJONJO MUE, VICE CHAIR, ICJ – KENYA
Hon. Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Ngugi, Director of the Judiciary Training Institute; our partners and co-convenors of this workshop, Equality Now and Katiba Institute; Hon. Judges and Magistrates; ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of ICJ – Kenya, to welcome you to this discourse.
ICJ Kenya is a membership organization established in 1959 whose mission is to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Africa through the application of legal expertise and international best practices. ICJ has had a long history of supporting judicial reforms and considers the judiciary a key ally in realizing human rights, democracy and the rule of law. ICJ Kenya, as a partner to the Judiciary, offers technical expertise and is always independent and impartial in its work.
Sometimes the work of organizations such as the ICJ is not well understood, and its views may not always be accepted especially where they are critical. However, it is important to state that the work is carried out with the objective of improving the judiciary and ensuring access to justice for the public.
ICJ Kenya recognizes the unique role that judicial officers play not only as duty bearers; leaders; interpreters of treaties and legislation; but also as champions of human rights and the rule of law.
This partnership with JTI, Equality Now and Katiba Institute seeks to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Maputo Protocol through engagement with East African Judiciaries. As the EAC countries move towards integration, peer will learning such as these will be important especially given the situation in partner states e.g. Tanzania which is developing a new constitution, or South Sudan which still has a fairly young judiciary.
The Maputo protocol which entered into force in 2005 is a statement of the commitment of African states to the protection of the rights of African women. In fact it is a demonstration that indeed Africa can come up with genuine African solutions to African problems. However, African women still face challenges in the realization of their rights. These include gross violations such as harmful traditional practices such as FGM, domestic violence, disinheritance and lack of access to land, and other forms of discrimination.
It is worth noting that whereas courts through their judgments are important, they are only one part of the solution. As the 2/3 case in Kenya has demonstrated, court orders can be disobeyed or not implemented in good faith. Therefore, it is important for courts to strike a balance between judicial activism and judicial restraint with regard to issues of public interest. When necessary, judicial officers should also use their power to convene parties to resolve issues and guard against locking society with decisions which have the potential of leaving the public without any further means of recourse.
Courts should also use judicial power in such cases to require parties such as government institutions to report on progress made in the implementation of their orders, to ensure that the rule of law is respected.
It is our hope that initiatives such as these can be encouraged across the continent, and that ultimately we shall increase the understanding of women’s rights and the Protocol across Africa.
As someone who has been involved in the struggle for constitutional reform in Kenya, I know that change does not come easily. The women’s movement also needs to realise that these issues will not be resolved without a struggle and the involvement of all women who must be at the forefront of the fight for their rights. Women must therefore continue to organize, mobilize and advocate strongly if there is to be lasting change.
But it is also critical that women do not leave the men behind in this struggle for equality. Men must be made to understand that by compressing the feet of their daughters, they are thereby also retarding the steps of their sons. It will take an upright manhood and an enlightened womanhood working together to fight and win the critical battles that lie ahead. For we cannot enter our Land of Promise half-fettered and half-free.
I thank you.