Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hamjambo mabibi na mabwana!
Good morning. I would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone here this morning.
This is the ninth year that Lawyers Without Borders and Judge Ann Williams have partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Judicial Training Institute of Kenya. It’s an extraordinary track record… something all of you should be very proud of. So, today, I’m honored to be here to once again open a training course on trial advocacy. It is yet another mark of the strong partnership between our two governments and our two peoples.
This year’s course touches on fraud, money laundering, terrorism, and wildlife crimes – all of which are significant for both Kenya and the United States. Many of you know that wildlife and conservation are issues I am passionate about and I think it is great that this will be one focus for this year’s training session.
One of my colleagues, the American Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, once remarked that: “The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, and judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing.”
This is true not just in the United States, but in all countries. In Africa, I think we are at a historic moment in which judiciaries are becoming more independent and stronger.
Here in Kenya, the judicial reform underway will is pushing forward on many fronts. For one, the judiciary is implementing constitutional reforms by institutionalizing performance management and measurement, which will improve judicial access, enhance transparency, accountability, and service delivery. The judiciary is also reforming how it handles traffic cases, which will help curb corruption involving police and traffic courts, and reduce costs in processing cases. The Office of the Director of the Public Prosecutor has also expanded its reach across the country, from 93 state counsels in 2010 to 650 today, and I hope that they will reach their goal of 900 prosecutors very soon. This is a huge achievement.
While increasing the number of prosecutors and the other reforms may seem small in some regards, together they signal deeper changes. They mean Kenyans across the country have more access to the courts and to justice, thereby solidifying the very foundations of constitutional democracy.
We are also closely following the work of Director Tobiko’s office on cases of paramount importance to both the United States and Kenya, including prosecution of the Westgate and Garissa terrorist attacks, and his office’s tireless work on the Akasha drug trafficking extradition cases. The DPP is also prosecuting ivory kingpin Feisal Mohamed Ali, a leading figure in the illegal animal trade across Africa and one of INTERPOL’s most wanted global wildlife criminals, who was arrested in Tanzania last year.
Despite this progress on strengthening the rule of law and the judiciary, the work is not yet done. There are areas where Kenya, where Africa, can continue to improve. One of these areas is corruption. As President Obama said clearly during his historic visit to Kenya last week, “corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could.”
During the President’s visit, I am pleased to say that Kenya and the United States signed a Joint Commitment to Promote Good Governance and Anti-corruption efforts in Kenya. The pledge is an important document, which, if fully implemented, could be transformative.
While Kenya does face challenges, including on corruption, I am optimistic this great country will confront them and succeed. I am encouraged because of the intelligence and drive of the Kenyan people themselves. And, I am encouraged by the great legal minds that are here today.
You are at the forefront of strengthening democratic reforms across Africa. The fact that you are here is a testament to your commitment, as judges and lawyers, as civil society leaders, to promoting peace, democracy, and human rights across Kenya, Africa, and around the world. Your work is vitally important at a time when Kenya and East Africa need strong judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and of course, civil society partners. And the rule of law, starting with strong legal institutions, with independent judiciaries, with vibrant civil societies, is critical to bringing about the change that Kenyans themselves want, on corruption and on so many other challenges.
In conclusion, I would add only this: as you strive to make progress, the United States stands with you. We have been a friend for more than 50 years. And, as President Obama made clear during his visit, we want to build further on our partnership to benefit both the Kenyan and the American people. I wish you well this week in your course.
Pamoja tusonge mbele.