Malawi: CCJP Justice Delivery Project Reduces Case Backlog in Nkhotakota Courts

29 March 2020

First Grade Magistrate Fred Juma Chilowetsa has hailed Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of Lilongwe Archdiocese (CCJP Lilongwe) for introducing Primary Justice Project, saying the project has helped in reducing backlog of cases on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the courts.

CCJP has taken on board traditional leaders and community-based paralegals that have been trained to sensitise people so that their rights are not infringed.

With support from the Charles Stewart-Mott Foundation, CCJP Lilongwe is implementing Enhancing Access to Justice for Vulnerable Women Project (commonly known as primary justice or Chilungamo Choyambirira among community members) to improve access to justice for women and children through improving the quality and accessibility of primary justice system.

The project is currently being implemented in T/As Mwadzama and Mwansambo in Nkhotakota and its major objective is to achieve enhanced capacity of village tribunals to respond to Gender Based Violence (GBV), improved coordination between the formal and informal justice systems in responding to GBV.

And speaking in an interview with Nyasa Times on the sidelines of a refresher training Kasangadzi Teacher Development Centre (TDC) on Thursday, Chilowetsa said the project has removed and demystified perceived technicalities when citizens want to access justice from the courts.

"The programme has also built the capacity of community and traditional leaders to resolve disputes within our own social and cultural context and using our own resources. This has greatly improved the access to justice by vulnerable groups while easing pressure on the conventional courts," he said.

"Previously, courts in Nkhotakota were congested and overwhelmed with misdemeanor cases from the communities such as fight over land and marital differences. But this is no longer the case as those cases are being handled at the village level by traditional leaders and village tribunals," added the magistrate.

Chilowetsa said the project has brought mindset change among citizens towards the Judiciary.

He further disclosed that the project has come at the right time when demand for justice and constitutionalism is growing among Malawians.

"This project has come at the time when there is need to ensure justice is accessible to every Malawian irrespective of their status in the society. So, as a magistrate, I am very grateful to CCJP for introducing this project in Nkhotakota," he said.

CCJP Lilongwe project officer for Access to Justice Project, Richard Kusseni, said the refresher course, which targeted Start Awareness Support Action (SASA) groups, community based educators (CBEs) and stakeholders such as the police and judiciary, was aimed at strengthening the capacity of the local structures so that they are able to enhance and promote the use of informal justice systems to access justice.

"The desire of CCJP is that every Malawian should be able to access justice without facing problems. Furthermore, it is our desire to see cases that have been brought before the conventional courts are being resolved within a considerable time since justice delayed is justice denied," said Kusseni.

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