By Victoria Saffa
Network Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (NMDHR) last week hosted a two-day training of one hundred and fifty (150) participants from the Mabunto Kafesimera and Tane chiefdoms in the Tonkolili district as part of activities of a project titled ‘strengthening the capacity of community-based organizations to monitor and hold informal justice institutions accountable in Tonkolili district’.
While giving a background to the project, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at NMDHR, Nabieu Kamara, revealed that a baseline research had been conducted to gauge the knowledge of the target population and the general public about justice and human rights issues, and information on the accountability and transparency platform established to ensure citizens’ participation in enforcing recommended procedures laid down by the State for operation of the informal justice sector targeted communities.
He stressed the need for massive awareness on decision-making processes in the informal justice sector, especially results of analysis from court monitoring checklist generated by community monitors, and that its utilization should be tangible and transparent.
He added that local authorities should be targeted in the sensitization programmes to adopt a participatory approach, to ensure women and youths are involved in decision-making processes, to enhance confidence in the justice system in communities.
NNDHR Project Officer, Abdaniru Salankole, said the objective of the training was to bring sanity and best practice in the informal justice institution in the district.
He said the training aimed to increase access to information on informal justice issues in the targeted communities, noting that the research revealed majority of the respondents lacked knowledge about the operations of local courts, especially pertaining to accountability and transparency issues; Mammy Queen Courts and courts that exist and arbitrate cases in the rural communities.
Mary Hallowell, a participant from Mabunto, said the training was timely as women’s rights are being violated on a daily basis.
She said women who are literate in the community are not allowed to take part in decision-making meetings for fear they will challenge those “unprogressive laws” which marginalize women. She added that the training has equipped participants to appreciate that they could be important players in decision-making processes.
She disclosed that one area that is lacking in transparency in the Mabunto court barray is that of the imposition fines.
Madam Hallowell said that as community members they expect elders to give a breakdown of quarterly or end-of-year reports because the community expects that monies collected from fines should be used for development purposes.
Program Manager of NMDHR, Abdul Habid, said the project is supported by DFID through the Access to Security and Justice Program (ASJP).
He disclosed that they will be operating in six chiefdoms in the Tonkolili District.