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International Legal Instruments Relating to Gender Equality in Kenya

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By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), Winner of Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, ADR Publication of the Year 2021 and CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021*

Article 2(5) and (6) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides that ‘the general rules of international law shall form part of the law of Kenya’ and that ‘any treaty or convention ratified by Kenya shall form part of the law of Kenya under this Constitution’ respectively. In Re The Matter of Zipporah Wambui Mathara [2010] eKLR the High Court held that by virtue of the provisions of Section 2 (6) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, International Treaties, and Conventions that Kenya has ratified, were imported as part of the sources of the Kenyan Law and thus the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Kenya ratified on 1st May 1972 were part of the Kenyan law.

The court went on to hold that the provisions of the ICCPR superseded those contained in the Banking Act. It is in line with the country’s international obligations on human rights and gender issues that Article 59 (2) (g) of the Constitution of Kenya provides that one of the functions of the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission is to act as the principal organ of the State in ensuring compliance with obligations under treaties and conventions relating to human rights. It is however noteworthy that the National Gender and Equality Commission Act, 2011 has since established the National Gender and Equality Commission as the successor in title to the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission established by Article 59 of the Constitution, pursuant to clauses (4) and (5) of that Article. Its functions however remain the same.

It is in line with the Commission’s mandate on international treaties and conventions that the Sessional Paper No. 02 of 2019 on National Policy on Gender and Development outlines the national agenda for gender equality and how Kenya intends to realize these ideals; details the overarching principles, which will be adopted and integrated into the National and County Government sectoral policies, practices and programmes and by all state and non-state actors; and it specifically takes cognizance of, inter alia: international and regional treaties on gender equality that Kenya has ratified such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. It also provides that each individual is entitled to enjoy their rights and freedoms ‘…without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’.  Article 7 therein also guarantees that ‘all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law’.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines the term “discrimination against women” to mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. CEDAW also provides that States Parties should condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake: to embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation.

CEDAW also obligates States Parties to take in all fields, in particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men. CEDAW also provides that States Parties should take all appropriate measures: to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.

CEDAW also provides that States Parties should take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development. Thus, the CEDAW covers civil rights, the legal status of women, the dimension of human reproduction and the impact of cultural factors on gender relations. Unlike other legal instruments, it acknowledges that different factors affect the relationships and interactions between men and women and thus outlines some obligations for State Parties to address all these factors.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees that ‘all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’. ICCPR also provides that each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

In addition, ICCPR provides that the States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant. Article 26 of the ICCPR further provides that ‘all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’.

Nairobi Forward looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women

The Nairobi Forward looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women captured the concern that the resources available to the programme on the advancement of women of the Secretariat were insufficient to ensure adequate support to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and effective implementation of other aspects of the programme, especially the preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in 1995.

The delegation that called again upon Member States to give priority to policies and programmes relating to the subtheme “Employment, health and education”, in particular to literacy, for the empowerment of women, especially those in the rural areas, to meet their own needs through self-reliance and the mobilization of indigenous resources, as well as to issues relating to the role of women in economic and political decision-making, population, the environment and information. The delegates also emphasized, in the framework of the Forward-looking Strategies, the importance of the total integration of women in the development process, bearing in mind the specific and urgent needs of the developing countries, and calls upon Member States to establish specific targets at each level in order to increase the participation of women in professional, management and decision-making positions in their countries.

Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

The Fourth World Conference on Women met in Beijing, China, from 4 to 15 September 1995 where delegates discussed and adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The objective of the Beijing conference was to review the achievement of the goals of equality, development and peace, as outlined in the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000 in 1985, and to establish a strategy for removing the remaining obstacles to the achievement of these goals. The Declaration recognized that the status of women had advanced but that inequalities and obstacles remained. It reaffirmed commitments to: equal rights in a number of existing agreements; ensuring full implementation of human rights of women and the girl child; and empowerment and advancement of women, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.

Delegates also stated their conviction that: women’s empowerment and full participation are fundamental to equality, development and peace; equal rights and responsibilities are critical to families; women’s involvement is required to eradicate poverty; peace is linked to the advancement of women; and gender-sensitive policies are essential to foster women’s empowerment and advancement. Governments also affirmed their determination to: intensify efforts to achieve goals from the Nairobi strategies; ensure the full enjoyment by women and the girl child of human rights; eliminate discrimination and remove obstacles to equality; encourage men to participate in actions towards equality; promote women’s economic independence; promote sustainable development and education; prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls; ensure full participation; and ensure equal access to economic resources.

United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) provides that women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. These rights include, inter alia: the right to life; the right to equality; the right to liberty and security of person; the right to equal protection under the law; the right to be free from all forms of discrimination; the right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health; the right to just and favourable conditions of work; the right not to be subjected to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. DEVAW also obligates States to condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.

*This is article is an extract from an article by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya): Muigua, K., Revisiting the Role of Law in Environmental Governance in Kenya, Available at: Muigua, K., Actualizing the National Policy on Gender and Development in Kenya, Available at: http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Actualising-the-National-Policy-on-Gender-and-Development-in-Kenya-Kariuki-Muigua-Ph.D-October-2020.pdf. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is Kenya’s foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized as one of the leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts by the Chambers Global Guide 2021. 

References

David Njoroge Macharia v Republic [2011] eKLR, Criminal Appeal 497 of 2007.

Doran, P. and Others, “Summary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: 4-15 September 1995.” Earth Negotiations Bulletin 14, no. 21 (1995): 1 < https://enb.iisd.org/download/pdf/enb1421e.pdf> Accessed 13 October 2020.

National Gender and Equality Commission Act, No.15 of 2011, Laws of Kenya.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “The Implications Of The Fourth World Conference On Women for Bilateral Development Co-Operation: Report From The DAC Expert Group On Women In Development Seminar, Held In Paris On 25-26 January 1996, Working Party on Gender Equality, DCD/DAC/WID(99)4, Available at:  http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplay documentpdf/?cote=DCD/DAC/WID(99)4&docLanguage=En > Accessed 13 October 2020.

Orinde, H., ‘Survey Reveals How Kenyans Are Ignorant of Their Human Rights’ (The Standard) accessed 14 October 2020.

Samuel Kamau Macharia & Another vs Kenya Commercial Bank Limited & 2 Others Sup. Ct. Application No. 2 of 2011; [2012] eKLR.

Treaty-Making and Ratification Act, No. 45 of 2012, Laws of Kenya.

UN General Assembly, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 20 December 1993, A/RES/48/104.

UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III). 15 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1.

UN General Assembly, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 18 December 1979, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1249, p. 13.

UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171.

UN General Assembly, Implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women: resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 16 December 1991, A/RES/46/98.

United Nations, Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, A/CONF.177/20 and A/CONF.177/20/Add.1 Date of adoption: 15 September 1995.

United Nations. Gender Mainstreaming an Overview. Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, 2002 < https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/e65237.pdf> Accessed 9 October 2020.

UN General Assembly, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1. 9 ‘Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality’ (UN Women) accessed 15 October 2020.

News & Analysis

Review: Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 9, No. 1

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The Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Volume 9, Issue No. 1, which is edited by and published by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD is out and stays true to the reputation of the journal in providing a platform for scholarly debate on thematic areas in the fields of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development. The current issue published in September 2022 covers diverse topics including Resolving Oil and Gas Disputes in Africa; National Environment Tribunal, Sustainable Development and Access to Justice in Kenya; Protection of Cultural Heritage During War; The Role of Water in the attainment of Sustainable Development in Kenya; Property Rights in Human Biological Materials in Kenya; Nurturing our Wetlands for Biodiversity Conservation; Investor-State Dispute Resolution in a Fast-Paced World; Status of Participation of Women in Mediation; Business of Climate Change and Critical Analysis of World Trade Organization’s Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Treatment.

Dr. Wilfred A. Mutubwa and Eunice Njeri Ng’ang’a in “Resolving Oil and Gas Disputes in an Integrating Africa: An Appraisal of the Role of Regional Arbitration Centres” explore the nature of disputes in the realm of oil and gas in Africa taking a look into the recent continental and sub-regional developments in a bid to establish regional integration. Additionally, it tests the limits of intra-African trade and dispute resolution and the imperatives for the African regional courts and arbitration centres. In “National Environment Tribunal, Sustainable Development and Access to Justice in Kenya,” Dr. Kariuki Muigua discusses the role played by the National Environment Tribunal (NET) in promoting access to justice and enhancing the principles of sustainable development in Kenya. The paper also highlights challenges facing the tribunal and proposes recommendations towards enhancing the effectiveness of the tribunal.

Dr. Kenneth Wyne Mutuma in “Protecting Cultural Heritage in Times of War: A Case for History,” argues that cultural heritage is at the heart of human existence and its preservation even in times of war is sacrosanct. It concludes that it is thus critical for states to take positive and tangible steps to ensure environmental conservation and protection during war within the ambit of the existing international legal framework. In “The Role of Water in the attainment of Sustainable Development in Kenya,” Jack Shivugu critically evaluates the role of water in the attainment of sustainable development in Kenya and argues water plays a critical role in the attainment of the sustainable development goals both in Kenya and at the global stage. The paper interrogates some of the water and Sustainable Development concerns in Kenya including water pollution, water scarcity and climate change and suggests practical ways to enhance the role of water in the Sustainable Development agenda.

Dr. Paul Ogendi in “Collective Property Rights in Human Biological Materials in Kenya,” reflects on property rights in relation to human biological materials obtained from research participants participating in genomic research. He argues that property rights are crucial in genomic research because they can help avoid exploitation or abuse of such precious material by researchers. In “Nurturing our Wetlands for Biodiversity Conservation,” Dr. Kariuki Muigua notes that Wetlands have a vital role in not just delivering ecological services to meet human needs, but also in biodiversity conservation. Wetlands are vital habitat sites for many species and a source of water, both of which contribute to biodiversity protection. The paper examines the role of wetlands in biodiversity conservation and how these wetland resources might be managed to improve biodiversity conservation.

Oseko Louis D. Obure in “Investor-State Dispute Resolution in a Fast-Paced World,” preponderance of disputes between States or States and Investors created need for a robust, effective, and efficient mechanisms not only for the resolution of these disputes but also their prevention. He notes that developing states lead in being parties to Investor-State Disputes (ISD) particularly as respondents. He proceeds to conceptualize and problematize investor-state disputes resolution in a fast-paced world. Lilian N.S. Kong’ani and Dr. Kariuki Muigua in “Status of Participation of Women in Mediation: A case Study of Development Project Conflict in Olkaria IV, Kenya” review the status of participation of women in mediation to resolve conflicts between KenGen and the community. The paper demonstrates a need for further democratization of the mediation processes to cater for more participation of women to enhance the mediation results and offer more sustainable resolutions.

Felix Otieno Odhiambo and Melinda Lorenda Mueni in “The Business of Climate Change: An Analysis of Carbon Trading in Kenya analyses the business of carbon trading in the context of Kenya’s legal framework. The article examines the legal framework that underpins climate change into the Kenyan legal system and provides an exposition of the concept of carbon trading and its various forms. Michael Okello, in “Critical Analysis of World Trade Organisation’s Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Treatment: Prospects, Challenges and Emerging Trends in the 21st Century,” highlights the rationale behind MFN treatment and also restates the vision of multilateral trade to achieve equitable and special interventions with respect to trade in goods, services and trade related intellectual property rights in the affected states.

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Dr. Kariuki Muigua: The Making of Top Arbitrator in Africa

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African Arbitrator of the Year 2022 Dr. Kariuki Muigua's Journey to the Top of ADR in Africa is a Case Study of Excellence

The journey of Dr. Kariuki Muigua to becoming the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022 has seen him painstakingly and consistently research, teach, write, edit, publish, train, mentor and practice arbitration, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), conflict management and dispute resolution for the last 30 years with excellence as a leading lawyer, authoritative scholar and ADR expert. Today, Dr. Kariuki Muigua, Phd, C.Arb is a Chartered Arbitrator and the African Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022. He is an advocate of 33 years standing and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. He is also the author of the Leading Textbooks on ADR, Mediation and Arbitration including the seminal Settling Disputes Through Arbitration in Kenya, now in 4th Edition. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is ranked at Band 1 by Chambers & Partners among the leading Arbitrators in Kenya noting that “He has been involved in several ground-breaking arbitrations,” “has an astute understanding of arbitration” and “is respected for litigation.”

Dr. Kariuki Muigua is also both the founder, publisher and editor of Africa’s leading Conflict Management Journal as well as one of the PhD Academics who majored in resolution of Natural Resources and Environmental Conflicts using mediation. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is also a leading author in the area of conflict management and has published several books on the topic including Resolving Conflicts through Mediation and Natural Resources and Environmental Justice in Kenya. It is these exploits that have left many of his admirers convinced that his next stop would be Professorship and admission to the Rank of Senior Counsel.

As an ADR Practitioner, Dr. Muigua was declared the first ever winner of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Kenya Branch) ADR Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honour given by the Institute to one member every year for his immense contribution to the growth of practice, research and scholarship of ADR in Kenya and across Africa. The award came barely a week after Dr. Muigua had won the coveted Law Society of Kenya ADR Practitioner of the Year Award at the 4th Edition of the Nairobi Legal Awards. LSK recognized Dr. Muigua for his outstanding practice in ADR and especially arbitration and his role as mentor to many lawyers venturing into the area. Dr. Kariuki Muigua was also awarded the ADR Publisher of the Year for his scholarship, authorship and editorship of leading research and publications on ADR in Africa including the Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development and Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Official Journal of the CIArb (Kenya).

The tripartite awards have been hailed by many of Dr. Kariuki Muigua’s peers in the ADR and Arbitration fraternity as a fitting tributes to his made immense contribution to mainstreaming of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and especially arbitration as way of resolving disputes in Kenya, East Africa and across Africa in the last two (2) decades. Indeed, starting in 2002 when Dr. Muigua took the Special Member Course leading to membership to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (MCIArb), Dr. Muigua one of the staunchest advocates of ADR in Africa in addition to becoming the foremost intellectual voice shaping ADR practitioners and scholars of the future. The contribution of Dr. Kariuki Muigua to the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) sector has taken many shapes and forms including as a practitioner, leader, policy maker, scholar, author, trainer, mentor and trailblazer among others.

Dr. Muigua is a leading Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practitioner in Kenya, Africa and the world at large who has been recognized nationally and globally by peers. The world leading peer-reviewed lawyers’ directory, Chambers and Partners, rates Dr. Kariuki Muigua as one of the best alternative dispute resolution experts in the country. It describes as ‘a highly respected arbitrator and mediator with a sterling background in commercial and constitutional cases, as well as matters relating to the environment and natural resources.’ The most recent ranking adds: “Kariuki Muigua of Kariuki Muigua & Co is held in high regard by market commentators for his role in the Kenyan arbitration sphere. He possesses stellar experience in commercial and constitutional disputes, as well as environmental matters and those relating to the extractive industries. In addition to being “a big noise in the arbitration association,” he is widely recognized for his academic work.”

Dr. Muigua has served in many panels as an arbitrator appointed by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb)-Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA), the London Court Of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the International Court of Arbitration under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on several occasions as a sole arbitrator and a member of arbitral tribunals in arbitrations involving commercial disputes. He has vast experience and expertise in adjudication and has sat as both as a panel member and a chairperson in various adjudication Boards both locally and internationally. He is also an accomplished mediator and has successfully presided over numerous matters both as a private mediator and a court appointed mediator under the Court-Annexed Mediation program in Kenya.

Dr Muigua was elected (unopposed) to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) Board of Trustees as the Regional Trustee for Africa, for the term beginning 1 January 2019. Previously, he served as the Branch Chairman of CIArb-Kenya from 2012 to 2015. He also served CIArb as Member and past Chairperson of the Sub-committee on Information Technology (IT), CIArb and as Member of the Legal Committee Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) – Kenya chapter. He is a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb)-Kenya chapter. He is also a member of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) and Kenya Branch. He is also a Member of Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC) and Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA). For his contributions, he was awarded Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Chairman’s Medal with a citation for exemplary service in December, 2015.

In policy-making, Dr. Kariuki Muigua is currently a member of the National Steering Committee for Formulation of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy representing the Academia since 2020. The team is providing guidance and overseeing the process for formulation of a national policy and institutional framework on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Kenya. He has also served as Member of the Meditation Accreditation Committee Panel of Mediators Accredited for Commercial Mediation under the Judiciary of Kenya. Recently, he led negotiations that achieved partnership with Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK on GPR 625 (International Commercial Arbitration) for University of Nairobi LLM students to achieve membership status without further tests, 2020 to 2023.

On ADR Scholarship, Dr. Muigua is the author of the leading textbook on Arbitration in Kenya, namely, Settling Disputes through Arbitration in Kenya, now in its 4th Edition (2022) and available for free download, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice in Kenya (2015) and Resolving Conflicts through Mediation in Kenya (2013). He has been cited hundreds of times as an ADR Scholar, contributed at least 3 chapters of published books, authored dozens of peer-reviewed articles in the areas of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution and presented over two dozen papers on ADR in diverse fora. Dr. Muigua has also facilitated numerous trainings, workshops and conferences on ADR. He has supervised and supervised at least two (2) completed PhD thesis on ADR, Dozens of Masters Thesis and is supervising three (3) PhDs in the area as a lecturer and mentor in ADR practice and scholarship. Dr. Muigua is a lecturer in International Commercial Arbitration at the University of Nairobi and tutor, trainer and assessor at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Kenya Branch).

Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Chartered Arbitrator (since January 2015) and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (since October 2010) and Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (since 2002). He holds a Diploma in Arbitration (2012) and became Accredited as a Mediator by the Mediation Training Institute in 2015. He is also a renowned consultant on ADR Law and Practice and has authored reports whose recommendations had far reaching impact on the sector. As a professional who strives to attain excellence in the legal and ADR arenas, Dr. Muigua has gone out of his way to put ADR in the frontline as one of the leading modes of dispute resolution in Kenya, Africa and at global stage. Dr. Muigua is a holder of a Ph. D in law from the University of Nairobi and has widespread training and experience in both international and national commercial arbitration and mediation. Previously, he served as the chairperson, Department of Private Law of the University of Nairobi School of Law 2020-2021.

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Overcoming Hindrances to International Commercial Arbitration in Kenya

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By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), The African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021*

In the face of globalisation, it is important that international trade and investment take place with minimal interference by territorial barriers such as unnecessary domestic courts’ intervention. It has been asserted that the settlement of disputes between parties to an international transaction, arbitration has clear advantages over litigation in national courts. The foreign court can be an alien environment for a businessman because of his unfamiliarity with the procedure which may be followed, the laws to be applied, and even the mentality of the foreign judges.

In contrast, with international commercial arbitration parties coming from different legal systems can provide for a procedure which is mutually acceptable. They can anticipate which law shall be applied: a particular law or even a lex mercatoria of a trade. They can also appoint a person of their choice having expert knowledge in the field. Thus, it is argued that these and other advantages are only potential until the necessary legal framework can be internationally secured, at least providing that the commitment to arbitrate is enforceable and that the arbitral decision can be executed in many countries, precluding the possibility that a national court review the merits of the decision.

There is a need to employ mechanisms that will help nurture and demonstrate Kenya to the outside world as a place with international commercial arbitrators with sufficient knowledge and expertise to be appointed to arbitrate international arbitrators. There is also the need to put in place adequate legal regimes and infrastructure for the efficient and effective organization and conduct of international commercial arbitration in Africa. This ranges from legislating comprehensive law on international commercial arbitration as well as setting up world class arbitration centres in Kenya to complement the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA).

There is also the Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (CADR) which is an initiative by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Kenya and was incorporated in May, 2013. Its objective is to establish and maintain a regional Dispute Resolution Centre in the country. The CADR is a positive step towards nurturing international commercial arbitration in Kenya. This will afford the local international commercial arbitrators the fora to showcase their skills and expertise in international commercial arbitration and will also attract international clients from outside Africa. It has been noted that there should be basic minimum standards for international commercial arbitration centres or institutions. These include: modern arbitration rules; modern and efficient administrative and technological facilities; Security and safety of documents; Expertise within its staff; and some serious degree of permanence. There is a need to set up more regional centres for training of international commercial arbitrators in Africa and Kenya.

The Kenyan Chapter of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators trains arbitrators across Africa and has trained arbitrators in countries like Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda and even Malawi. Kenya can indeed play a pivotal role in nurturing international commercial arbitration, not only in Kenya but also across the African continent. There is also need for the existing institutions to seek collaboration with more international commercial arbitration institutions since this will work as an effective marketing tool for the exiting institutions. For instance, the Kenyan Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Branch maintains a close relationship with the International Law Institute (ILI) Kampala and the Centre for Africa Peace and Conflict Resolution (CAPCR) of California State University to conduct Courses in Mediation and other forms of ADR both locally and internationally.

There is need for all African centres and institutions to do the same to promote international commercial arbitration in Africa. The Kenyan law on arbitration appreciates the need to limit court intervention in arbitration to a basic minimum. It has been argued that the relationship between the courts and the arbitral process can be made much closer, both practically and psychologically. The psychological link can be strengthened by encouraging all or at least a good number of the commercial judges and advocates to take up training in arbitration and consequently ensuring that they benefit from having prior experience of arbitration either as representative advocates or actual arbitrators. This will subsequently boost the confidence of foreigners in the African Arbitration institutions as well as the role of courts. Effective and reliable application of international commercial arbitration in Kenya has the capacity to encourage investors to carry on business with confidence knowing their disputes will be settled expeditiously.

In essence, there is need to develop a clear framework in Kenya within which international commercial arbitration can be further nurtured. There are arbitral institutions already in place in Kenya as highlighted in this paper. The presence of such institutions in the country points to an acceptance of alternative dispute resolution modes as well as the need to nurture the practice of international commercial arbitration other than exporting commercial disputes to foreign countries for settlement. With the right frameworks in place, Kenya indeed has the capacity to conduct successful international commercial arbitration. Nurturing international commercial arbitration in Kenya is a necessity whose time has come.

*This article is an extract from published article Nurturing International Commercial Arbitration in Kenya,” by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), CIArb (Kenya) ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Foremost Dispute Resolution Expert in Africa ranked among Top 6 Arbitrators in Kenya by Chambers and Partners, Leading Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized as one of the leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts by the Chambers Global Guide 2022 and is ranked among the Top 5 Arbitrators in Kenya in 2022 by The Lawyer Africa. 

References

Muigua, K., “Nurturing International Commercial Arbitration in Kenya,” Available at: http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Nurturing-International-Commercial-Arbitration-in-Kenya.pdf (accessed 15 July 2022).

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