Before you go to court, ask the witchdoctor, says Kenya’s top judge

Kenyan courthouse

(Reuters) – A frustrated chief justice told Kenyans on Tuesday that even witchdoctors could help them resolve their disputes without taking each other to the overburdened courts.

Willy Mutunga, a respected lawyer, was appointed in 2011 to reform a judiciary widely seen as in the pay of the political elite and to cut red tape, at a time when many Kenyans had lost confidence in the courts.

Opening a new court building in Kiambu county near Nairobi, Mutunga said he was concerned that the growing demand for court services was adding to a backlog of thousands of lawsuits.

He said people should stop saying “I’ll see you in court”, and entering a long and costly process, when they could first seek help from churches, mosques, elders or neighbors.

“Even in Kutui, where I come from, I have told people they can go to the witchdoctors to solve issues,” he said, to laughter from people at the ceremony.

The remarks prompted a flurry of bemused or irritated messages to television stations and tweets and, even if meant light-heartedly, are likely to raise eyebrows in a largely conservative and religious nation.

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