How it all began.
AJAR was founded as a consequence of a visit in 2016 by members of Karen Vineyard Church to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where they met with a long term inmate, Peter ‘Pete’ Ouko, who had spent 18 years in prison for a crime he still maintains that he did not commit. Pete had been convicted for the murder of his wife and was and sentenced to death, the sentence eventually being commuted to life imprisonment. Although he was eventually released on presidential pardon in October that same year, Pete’s story was one of the key motivators behind the formation of AJAR. It opened our eyes to the large number of people who are similarly falsely accused and imprisoned in Kenya’s prison system and AJAR is now focused on the aim of identifying as many of those individuals who are charged with crimes that they have committed, before they are sentenced, where possible getting them out on bail while they await their trial, and then representing them in court, especially the poor and marginalized.
Pete’s story also serves to underscore the value of providing empowering programmes to inmates. The transformation of just one life demonstrates why prisons reform and empowerment work is important and reminds us about the possibilities that can change lives, when we commit ourselves to change. The fact that injustice and poverty still remain reminds us that there is still so much more that can be done. We believe that, in addition to releasing inmates from remand and having their cases withdrawn by the courts, there is a real need to find a way to work with them after this point and to provide empowerment programmes for their self-improvement that will help them return back into society.
This then was the where the seeds were planted that eventually led to the formation of Africa Justice and Restoration (AJAR) Trust in March 2019 as a social justice program of Renewal Church Nairobi to address cases of unjust pre-trial detention. AJAR is a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to right the wrongs of injustice in the prison system, and partners with communities, government institutions, civil society organisations including churches and like-minded organisations to realize its goal of ensuring justice for all. AJAR’s work is inspired by the passion of its members to fight for the rights of the poor and oppressed in pursuit of the right to access justice and the right to fair trial.