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The Hon Chief Justice on Continental Conference in Rwanda

By Salifu Conteh
The Hon Chief Justice Charm Flanked by Justice Fynn and Justice Sesay of the Court of Appeal
The Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm with two Justices of the Court of Appeal- Hon Mr. Justice Reginald Fynn and Hon Mr. Justice Monfred M. Sesay and representative from Timap for Justice are currently in Rwanda to attend Continental Conference between Judiciary and Community Justice Institutions in Africa on the theme:“Delivering Quality Justice Services to the Broadest Possible Range of Africa Citizens in Rural and Urban Areas”.
The objectives of the conference are to highlight the key conceptual programmatic and operational issues, trends and challenges, paying particular attention to the constitutional, legal, policy and political context as well as the socio-economic realities on the relationship between Judiciary and Community Justice Institutions in the Continent.

In his opening courtesy, The Hon Chief Justice told his counterparts from South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya and other dignified personalities from governments and international organizations that, the conference came at a pivotal time; a time for Africans to define what best works for them and what justice means to their people in terms of contexts and cultures. The Hon Chief Justice said, it is time for them to embrace the opportunities of modernity while maintaining their core values -justice to all without fear or favour.
Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai H. Charm said that theconference has enabled them to recognize that justice is not only the reserve of judges and lawyers; that civil society and non-governmental organizations have played, and continue to play a crucial role in the Justice value chain, role, when harnessed properly, may bring enormous advantages not only to citizens but also to our judicial systems.
He said,they must admit as Judiciaries that they are too keen to protect their meadow to the extend they fail to appreciate the benefits to act as a team with community justice institutions. Noting that there are times when protection of judicial independence and integrity served as stumbling block, such relationships he said need to be defined. However, the Hon Chief Justice stressed that such must never be an excuse to shut our users of our courts; those in most need of the service we provide.
Hon Justice Charm said, they are in the conference because they have acknowledged the imperative role of formal justice institutions- the courts, the police and the prison play in promoting access to justice. “At the same time, we are also here because we have released the limitations of this formal system”.
Chief Justice said, judiciaries in the continent are faced with crowded prisons and police stations, overflowing caseload in courts, and understaffed and poorly-trained personnel. Justice delayed now seems synonymous with the formal system. He acknowledged the ongoing reforms across Africa to improve access to formal justice such as increasing number of judicial officers, capacity building, introduction of plea bargaining in some jurisdiction, improving adherence to the Luanda Guidelines, and strengthening the independence of the Judiciary. “With an ever-growing population, increased interaction, and complex commercial and other relationships, this an appropriate time for us to think about expanding the opportunities of justice for our people”. The Hon Chief Justice stated.
“As chief Justice of Sierra Leone, I believe our story is not unique. With dual legal system in which formal legal processes coexist with strong customary structure, we have found space to accommodate other forums such as faith -based organizations and civil society, in our quest to increase access to justice for all.” Hon Mr. Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm said, his leadership has prioritized collaboration with community justice institutions, such as Timap for Justice, one of the founding members of the Africa Centre for Excellence. Timap’s pioneering work on community-based paralegals, has become a model for community engagement, even for the Judiciary of Sierra Leone.
We still have a long way to go. Collaboration with community justice institutions will require openness and innovation. In his closing statement, the Hon Chief Justice thanked members of the Africa Centre of Excellence for conceiving the idea of strengthening collaboration between judiciaries and community justice institutions.
This medium was reliably informed that one of the Court of Appeal Judges the Hon. Mr. Justice Monfred Momoh Sesay moderated panel one on the topic: “ Framing the Issues, Content and Co-text Community Justice Initiatives in Africa”

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