Participants pose for a group photo following the opening session of the USIU-Africa Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference held from June 19-20 in the Library and Information Center. PHOTO:ANTONIO LONGANGI
By DR. Simeon P. Sungi
On June 19 and 20, scholars and practitioners from the East African region and other parts of the world were hosted by the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, to deliberate on issues relating to “Access to Justice and the Enforcement of Rights in Criminal Courts in East Africa.”
The USIU-Africa Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference is an annual conference established by faculty in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, to respond to the new direction spelt out in the University’s Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020, which focuses on research and bridging the gap between industry and academia.
The Organizing Committee received 40 abstracts, addressing the seven sub-themes: Development of penal reform in East Africa and beyond; Non-lawyers and justice delivery; Promoting international humanitarian law through the criminal justice system; Corrections and rehabilitation; Access to justice and human rights; Gender and access to justice and Accessing legal aid in the criminal justice system in East Africa and beyond.Head of Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nairobi, Mr. Olivier DuBois delivered the keynote speech on the opening day, which dealt with the importance of fighting against impunity by responding to international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. He emphasized the need for national jurisdictions to develop processes that are able to respond to the needs of victims of such crimes, while understanding the root causes of conflict in society. Such an understanding, Mr. DuBois said, enables society to devise alternative methods of social control, without an over-reliance on court processes. According to him, society is the most important organ that can influence a paradigm shift in how individuals socialize, thus avoiding conflict as well as inculcating respect for the rule of law.
During the last day of the conference, delegates moved to a plenary session moderated by Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Simeon Sungi where members of academia and industry engaged in a dialogue on the real meaning of access to justice and its application in society. The panelists, who included Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Ngure wa Mwachofi, ICRC Communication and Liaison Officer, Mr. Hillary Muchiri Kiboro, Mzumbe University, Tanzania, Ms. Rosemary Mukama, Ms. Valentine Njogu (Advocate), Ms. Rahma Ramadhan (Lawyer and Junior Research Fellow, Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies) and Mr. Emmanuel Pirimba, Prosecutor, Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution, Uganda), were of the uniform view that “access to justice” is an important norm in any society because it dictates competing values, namely peace and justice.
The conference papers presented shall undergo a double-blind peer review process, and be published in a special issue of the Journal of Language, Technology & Entrepreneurship in Africa bearing the Conference theme. The next USIU-Africa Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference will be held on June 19 and 20, 2019.