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YONECO Circumventing the Challenge of Long Distances to Courts in Mangochi

The Judiciary commonly known as courts are the only mandated institutions in Malawi that are entrusted with the provision of justice in Malawians. The courts ensure that the rule of law is being upheld and the constitution of Malawi is the standard guide in the delivery of justice. 

Mangochi district, just like all the other districts in Malawi, is not exempted from getting judicial services whenever there is a need. However, despite having judicial structures in place, many people from the district face a number of challenges that restrain them from accessing justice. This is due to a number of factors that stand in the way of the justice delivery system in the district and such factors include; inadequate legal personnel and structures as well as long distances to the courts.

In some instances, cases have stayed for months without being settled more especially when the cases involve people who live in the remotest parts of the district. It is for this reason that YONECO with funding from UNFPA through Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Project has embarked on the process of facilitating Mobile Legal Prosecution Sessions that are aimed at bringing justice to the people who live in rural communities.

For instance, it took three months to conclude an arson case between a son (suspect) and his father who was a complainant in the case.

Under the Mobile Legal Prosecution initiative, YONECO with the help of Second Grade Magistrate, Worship Mwanyali, identified the case as one of the many outstanding cases that are being delayed because of distances which people have to cover in order to reach a court.  In this scenario, it was established that the suspect and his witnesses in the arson case were unable to appear before the court because of the 40 km journey that exists between them and Mangochi Second Grade Magistrate’s Court. It was further noted that the total cost of transport to cover this journey is MK 3,000 per person.

Upon seeing that people in the rural communities need justice just like their urban counterparts, YONECO organised the prosecution team from the Malawi Police Service as well as the judiciary to settle the case. As partners, YONECO, the Police and the judicial officials held a court at Mpina village, a place where the crime was committed.

Thus, after two hearing sessions, judgement was passed on 9th June, 2015. In the hearing sessions, the complainant narrated his side of the story claiming that his son had always hated him. He told the court that he was being accused of marrying another wife and ill-treating his first wife (a mother to the suspect). It was established that this state of affairs angered the son to set his father’s house ablaze.

The suspect was sentenced after being found guilty. In passing his judgement, the Second Grade Magistrate, His Worship Mwanyali said that arson attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment but being a first offender, the boy was sentenced to community service. He was ordered to renovate the house which he destroyed.  His Worship Mwanyali further said that the judgement was meant to unite the family and reconcile the two.  

As an organisation that also promote  human rights  and democracy, YONECO has been facilitating the process of ensuring that the issue of distances to and from courts should not stand on the way of the judicial system in the district.

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