In This Review

Kenya Shadow Justice
Kenya Shadow Justice
African Rights, 1996, 267 pp

Without institutional mechanisms for the resolution of disputes, life everywhere would be nasty, brutish, and short. Judicial systems that routinely fail to perform their intended functions lose public trust and set society on a slippery slope to mob justice, anarchy, and state collapse. This courageous report sounds alarms for Kenya, where rampant corruption and lack of public confidence in the police and the courts portend increasing violence. While foreign donors and human rights organizations focus on the defense of high-profile political dissidents in Nairobi, a culture of cynicism, despair, and violence grows in the countryside, fed by the authoritarianism of rural chiefs, the insecurity arising from thousands of unresolved land disputes and politically sanctioned land seizures, and the abusive and arbitrary behavior of law enforcement officers. This grassroots crisis of justice, the report argues, ultimately threatens stability in Kenya much more than do the venal machinations of President Daniel Arap Moi to control the national parliament or keep the international aid taps open.