Successful round table on juvenile justice

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The Oslo Center is working on protection of children in Kisumu County together with Children’s Services in Kisumu County Administration, Undugu Society of Kenya and West Kenya Law Society. The aim of the round table was to strengthen the protection of children by increasing the capacity of juvenile justice actors to implement diversion in Kisumu County. Diversion means that children in conflict with the law as soon as possible should be diverted out of the traditional justice system and given alternatives to punishment.

Present in the round table were NGO representatives and key decision makers in the County on juvenile justice and diversion, among them the new County Commander of Police, Mr. Nelson Njiri, the Kisumu County Commissioner Mr. Erastus Ekidor, Mrs. Jennifer Keere, Executive Member for Education, Youth, Culture, and Social Services in the County Government of Kisumu, Mrs. Lucy Gitari, Chief Magistrate, Kisumu Law Court and the County Prison Commander, Mr. Aggrey Odongo. They all gave presentations on how they saw the gaps, needs and challenges within their sector.

Mr. Ahmed Hussain, Director of Children’s Services, in the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services gave the key note address in the round table on what should be done to strengthen juvenile justice and diversion in Kenya. In addition Professor Eusebio Wanyama outlined the main issues and challenges in juvenile justice and diversion.

The most important challenge is that the state actors have very limited resources, and thus need to be supported by NGO’s working in this sector. Another major challenge is that the Children’s Act Amendment Bill (2013), which has one section on diversion, has not been adopted yet. The lack of legal backing for diversion has made it difficult to secure budgetary allocations for this work. However, there is now hope that this Amendment Bill will be passed before the end of the year.

We also heard presentations from other actors involved in child protection in the County, whom gave testimonies of a number of issues that represented challenges when working on solving concrete cases of child protection.

Another big challenge facing all actors is problems and ambiguities in the devolution process from the state level to the county level. This is an ongoing process that is not finalized yet, thus for some areas both old state structures and the new county structures still exists.

The meeting ended with a number of recommendations that the different actors can work on in order to improve the situation in the juvenile justice system in the County.  These recommendations will be discussed in a follow up meeting with the key decision makers in the County, hopefully to take place in the end of November this year. Mrs. Jennifer Keere, Executive Member for Education, Youth, Culture and Social Services in the County Government of Kisumu offered in her closing remark to host the next roundtable on this topic.

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