Social Justice – Insights From Justice Isaac Lenaola


Social Justice – Insights From Justice Isaac Lenaola

While studying a unit on Conflict Management and Resolution at the Technical University of Kenya, the most emphasized characteristic of society was that- every society has conflict. Therefore parties are constantly looking for fair solutions- Justice

In countries governed by a constitution like Kenya, most conflicts and crime are solved through a judicial system. Therefore today, I was privileged to have attended a public lecture delivered by Justice Isaac Lenaola at the University of Nairobi Faculty of Law. Justice Lenaola is a judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya.

Him being a man rich with vast knowledge and long experience in law- wisdom, I must also confess that that was the first lecture I have attended this year and a very gracious one. His submissions intrigued me in several ways:

What is impunity? – This is a word that other than in courtrooms, is very common on newspaper headlines and effortlessly used by the higher political class. What does it really mean? Impunity simply means exemption from punishment. In the context of justice, it is evading punishment deserved from a crime committed.

As a result, some people are claimed to be untouchable and they occasionally remind you that \’Hakuna kitu unaweza nifanyia\’ – that is impunity.

Does the law make us all equal? – Unfortunately most times the law favors those who are rich. Most cash bails, fines, cost of having a lawyer are all up above. It leaves us wondering where the place of the lowly is.

Are Judges Neutral? – I remember Prof. Makau Mutua, he\’s a dean of a law school in the US, wrote an article arguing that \’the law doesn\’t exist in a vacuum. Justice Lenaola says that judges are also influenced by the socially acquired biases, attitudes and inclinations. It means that before a judge gives a ruling, he/she might have judged you the first time they saw you. It means judges can like and dislike – but what is the nexus with professionalism?

Does the government promote impunity? – Focus is drawn to the cases that were dropped in the early months of the current regime. Were the actions procedural? Additionally, those in government frequently disregard court orders and get away with it in immunity. 

History has it that there used to be a telephone at the Supreme Court, which only the president called. What message used to be delivered is right there in your guesses. That leads us to the importance of the separation of powers among the arms of government according to the 2010 constitution.

What happens when people don\’t trust their judicial system?– The result is a state of anarchy where citizens opt to take the law in their hands through activities such as mob justice and use of traditional methods of solving conflicts.

Conclusion: While our judicial system in Kenya and the constitution have grown, as well as the people have gained more understanding, there still is need to enhance the independence of the judiciary, improvement of judicial services and continued adherence to the law by citizens in order to build a more just society.

Boniface Muema Harrison Is A Social Justice Enthusiast


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