Kenyan judicial officials in Rwanda to sign cooperation agreement

By Esther Muhozi
On 10 June 2024 at 11:41

Top Kenyan judicial officials, including Chief Justice Martha Koome, are currently in Rwanda on an official visit. This visit includes the signing of a cooperation agreement with their Rwandan counterparts, as well as bench-marking sessions aimed at enhancing judicial processes in both countries.

Memorandum of Understanding

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed between the two countries’ judiciaries encompasses various aspects, primarily focused on sharing knowledge and best practices. This initiative aims to expedite the hearing and determination of cases and improve the overall quality of judicial services. Additionally, the MoU will facilitate peer-to-peer capacity-building exercises, exchanges, study tours, and institutional consultations.

Importance of Knowledge Sharing

Speaking to a local news outlet, Harrison Mutabazi, President of the Rwanda Judicial Officers Association, emphasized the importance of sharing best practices within East African countries. He noted that this exchange is crucial for improving local jurisdictions’ access to justice.

"We are thinking about benchmarking; that is one of the things we are going to be working on. For example, countries have started using electronic case management systems. In Rwanda, we are using them, in Tanzania, they are using them, and in Kenya too. So, Uganda can learn from us," Mutabazi stated.

As part of the agreement, Rwanda and Kenya will collaborate in areas of common interest, particularly in academic, jurisprudence, and intellectual exchanges, as well as information and communication technology (ICT).

Rwanda’s justice system has undergone significant transformations in recent years, driven by new policies for criminal justice and alternative dispute resolution approved by the cabinet in 2022. These changes aim to shape legal proceedings and the justice system positively.

The criminal justice policy focuses on increasing the use of non-custodial mechanisms for handling detainees and convicts. Tools like GPS bracelets are being introduced as alternatives to custodial detention. Community service and fines have also been implemented as substitutes for detention in some cases.

Furthermore, the policy aims to make Rwanda’s prison system more corrective and rehabilitative by ensuring prison officers are equipped with the necessary knowledge to positively impact inmates. The goal is for inmates to acquire skills, knowledge, and a better attitude by the time they leave correctional facilities.

On the other hand, the alternative dispute resolution policy prioritizes non-litigation mechanisms for resolving conflicts. The justice ministry continues to encourage the use of mediators (Abahuza), conciliators (Abunzi), and arbitrators, reducing the reliance on direct litigation.