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Press Release

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. Delivers Remarks at First Colloquium Bringing Together 20 African Countries to Collaborate on Pretrial Detention Issues

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division joined the Honorable Chief Justice of the Kenya Supreme Court Martha Koome and Kenya Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji in delivering remarks today to kick off the first Africa Regional Colloquium on “Enhancing the Delivery of Justice by Addressing Pretrial Detention Challenges.” The three-day colloquium in Nairobi, Kenya, brings together representatives of 20 African governments to explore initiatives designed to strike the appropriate balance between public safety and national security and fairness and the efficient, orderly administration of justice, including by reducing pretrial detention.  

Government representatives are engaging with each other on topics including the causes and consequences of excessive pretrial detention, international norms, alternatives to pretrial detention, developing plea agreement regimes to reduce pretrial detention, and the unique challenges presented by terrorism and violent extremism. They will also discuss examples of initiatives from Kenya and Senegal.

“Events like today’s provide us opportunities to learn from each other, consider new approaches, and reaffirm our shared commitment to advancing the rule of law,” said Assistant Attorney General Polite. “These opportunities reinvigorate us, equip us with more tools, and build closer partnerships to help overcome shared challenges and meet our responsibilities to our citizens and the international community.”

Chief Justice Koome delivered the keynote address.

“In the pursuit of justice, the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is sacrosanct. This principle is often put to the test in the face of pretrial detention,” said Justice Koome. “As custodians of the law, we must strive to ensure that our justice systems are both efficient and effective. We must work towards reducing case backlogs, streamline court processes, and leverage on technology to expedite court proceedings. We must embrace the view that justice is not merely punitive but is also preventive and restorative. It is a mechanism for social change or social transformation.”

Kenya Director of Public Prosecutions Haji highlighted the initiatives that Kenya has taken through the implementation of alternatives to prosecution, such as Diversion and Plea bargaining as well as the All-for-Justice Program, while reiterating the shared values of the Kenyan-U.S. prosecutorial relationship.

“This colloquium will enhance International and Regional cooperation amongst criminal justice actors to further develop frameworks and mechanisms which will incorporate human rights, socio- political, cultural and economic realities, to reduce on pretrial detention,” said Director Haji. “It is our responsibility to ensure that pretrial detention is used in a manner that upholds the rule of law, respects human rights, and fosters public trust in the criminal justice system. By doing so, we can ensure that justice is served in a manner that is fair, just, and humane.”

Kenya’s Judiciary and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions hosted the Colloquium, which is being sponsored by several partners, including the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT), the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the European Union-funded Anti-Money Laundering–Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) Platform in East, South, Center of Africa and Yemen (ESCAY), the British High Commission in Kenya and the International Institute for Justice Malta. OPDAT has been working with African partners to improve their policies and practices that can lead to excessive pretrial detention of suspects, by both rediscovering their existing legal mechanisms and developing new tools to reduce excessive detention. Reductions in unnecessary detention will have cascading benefits throughout criminal justice systems by reducing overcrowding in the prisons, limiting exposure of vulnerable detainees to violent extremist rhetoric in those prisons, and reducing caseloads to permit police, prosecutors, and judges to focus on priority cases. 

Government officials from the following countries participated in the Colloquium: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia.

Please visit for more information about OPDAT’s capacity building efforts around the world.

Updated May 16, 2023

Press Release Number: 23-262