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African Development Bank celebrates Kenyan judge for defending community in West Pokot

Justice Nixon Sifuna, a Kenyan High Court judge has been named one of two recipients of the African Development Bank’s inaugural Accountability in Action Award for the year 2022.

Sifuna was honoured on Wednesday August 8th during a ceremony in Nairobi for successfully defending community members of Tomko-Kalya village in Kapenguria, West Pokot County in Kenya. This follows the government’s construction of a sewerage treatment plant there. His advocacy pushed the government to relocate the project.

The award, given by the African Development Bank’s Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM), recognises individuals who have displayed exemplary integrity and accountability in resolving complaints arising from Bank-funded projects. The project in case was under the Bank-funded Kenya Towns Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Program.

A former environmental lawyer and activist, Justice Sifuna represented more than 500 people from Tomko-Kalya village, as part of a compliance review by the IRM in 2020-2022. He raised awareness of the failure of   project initiators to invite public participation. He also successfully lobbied the Kenyan government to change the location of the sewerage treatment plant from Kapenguria to Makutano town, some 15 kilometres away. His actions formed the basis of the award.

Nnenna Nwabufo, African Development Bank Director General for eastern Africa, who presented the award on behalf of the institution, commended Sifuna for demonstrating accountability and integrity.

“As we all know, despite its critical importance, the path to accountability is strewn with numerous and daunting challenges,” Nwabufo said. “However, the good news is that in spite of all the challenges, there are still some people who continue to demonstrate exceptional commitment to accountability in their day-to-day work.  We are here today to celebrate one of these people in the person of the Honourable Justice Sifuna.”

“We hope that this recognition will pave the way for the recognition of other accountability champions not only in Kenya but across Africa,” Nwabufo added.

Sifuna dedicated his award to the people of Tomko-Kalya, lauding their bravery. “This award belongs to the people of Tomko-Kalya, who walked barefoot to my office and asked me to represent them,” Sifuna said. “It was obvious they could not afford my fees. But I have passion for public interest litigation.”

He added: “The integrity we are celebrating today is not mine, but for the community which resisted to be relocated. What this has demonstrated is that even the voiceless have a voice. Although they may not speak by themselves, through others they can speak loudly. Through this case, the people of Tomko-Kalya spoke, and the world heard them. I wish they were here to receive this award with me.”

Justice Nixon Sifuna, a Kenyan High Court judge has been named one of two recipients of the African Development Bank’s inaugural Accountability in Action Award for the year 2022.

Sifuna said he faced intimidation, threats and even bribery attempts to persuade him to drop the case. “But I did not cower,” he explained, adding: “This case was my baby. I could not leave it. I am happy the people of Tomko-Kalya were granted their wish.”

Earlier this year, the IRM announced Sifuna and Regis Mpawaneyo, director of the Roads Agency of Burundi, as joint winners of the 2022 Accountability in Action Award. The Burundi national helped resolve a dispute concerning a Bank-funded road infrastructure project.

The two winners were selected from a list of several nominees by IRM’s Stakeholder Advisory Council, after consideration of their track records and specific contributions demonstrating accountability.

IRM Director David Simpson said IRM’s goal is to enhance accountability and sustainability of Bank-funded projects.

“The IRM believes accountability is at the heart of sustainable development. At its best, accountability civilizes power by requiring governments, institutions and citizens to be responsible and responsive to the interests of all stakeholders, including the environment,” Simpson said. “In so doing, accountability helps to ensure that even the most powerless and impoverished among us will have their voices heard and their dignity upheld.”

Contact: 

Communications and External Relations Department, African Development Bank Group; email: media@afdb.org

Source African Development Bank Group

Maravi Post Reporter
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