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Community Practices and Cultural Voices under Kenyan Law: Prospects and Challenges



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 Publisher of the Year 2021 and CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021*

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation. In light of this, it obligates the State to, inter alia, promote all forms of national and cultural expression through literature, the arts, traditional celebrations, science, communication, information, mass media, publications, libraries and other cultural heritage; recognise the role of science and indigenous technologies in the development of the nation; and promote the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya. Parliament is also obligated to enact legislation to: ensure that communities receive compensation or royalties for the use of their cultures and cultural heritage; and recognise and protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics and their use by the communities of Kenya.

The Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage was established through the Executive Order No. 2 “Organization of the Government of the Republic of Kenya dated May 2013” and comprises of departments of Sports, Office of the Sports Registrar, Culture, Permanent Presidential Music Commission, Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services, Library Services, Records Management, The Arts Services. Part of their mandate includes ‘developing, promoting and coordinating research, copyrights and conservation of Culture’ and to ‘develop, promote & coordinate the national culture policy, heritage policy and its management’. Notably, the core functions of the Department of Culture under the Ministry are: the promotion, revitalization and development of all aspects of culture- including performing, visual arts, languages indigenous health, nutrition, environment, and oral traditions; and, education, information and research on all aspects of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

The Department’s core mandate includes, to: advise the government on cultural matters; set policy standards to guide the development of cultural programmes; develop national cultural infrastructure and actively engage in the promotion, preservation and development of culture, in collaboration with other likeminded government agencies, County governments, and local communities based on the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent; coordinate the documentation of national cultural inventories, and support cultural programmes and events; promote the use of Kiswahili, sign and indigenous languages in Kenya; coordinate safeguarding of Kenya’s intangible cultural heritage and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions; conduct capacity building for county governments, and disseminating cultural information; coordinate and facilitate cultural exchange programmes for groups and individuals; liaise with cultural offices and Offer technical support for cultural development programmes; and register cultural groups, associations and agencies.

Notably, the Department of Culture acknowledges that ‘while it has been playing some of the key roles in promotion of cultural integration, formulation of policies and standards that will guide the development of culture, Kenyan identity and social cohesion, both at the national and international levels, little information has been available to the Kenyan public’. However, while the Department, in line with its constitutional mandate, seeks to use its website to disseminate information, and open up an online forum, where all Kenyans can contribute towards realisation of our shared dreams and aspirations; our pride in ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity, and the determination to live in peace and unity, as one indivisible and sovereign nation, there are challenges that come with this.

Arguably, most of the custodians of the cultural practices and knowledge of Kenyan communities are either not able to access the internet due to infrastructure challenges or do not simply have the formal education required to enable them do so. This therefore means that the Department’s initiative, however well meaning, will either not reach a large section of the target group or will not benefit from added knowledge that would be gained from the input of elders from the villages. There may therefore, be a need for the Department to organize physical forums where they can meet the communities’ elders and leaders and share their dream with them in a bid to enrich their cultural knowledge database. The only way that the Department of culture and heritage can effectively achieve their mandate of advising the government on cultural matters, dissemination of cultural information, conducting capacity building for county governments, coordination and facilitate cultural exchange programmes for groups and individuals, offering technical support for cultural development programmes and registering cultural groups, associations and agencies would be through organizing forums where communities, without the limitation of technology or distance would come forward and share what they have with the Department.

This cannot certainly be the online platform. Physical meetings should thus be organized at the grassroots level. Through such forums, the Department can collaborate with the other stakeholders especially in matters that are relevant to the sustainable development agenda in order to tap into the communities’ knowledge and practices where such can help in promoting sustainability. Some of the main challenges that have been identified especially in relation to the implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Kenya, in the past include; Lack of a coordinated national framework on implementation of the Convention; Lack of official cultural statistics that has negatively affected fiscal and political decisions; Inadequate legislative and institutional framework to promote the cultural and creative cultural sector; Inadequate cultural infrastructure and spaces for cultural expression; and Lack of awareness and non-appreciation on the role of culture in development by key policy makers.

Cultural expressions, services, goods and heritage sites can contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic development, thus making a vital contribution to eradication of poverty as envisaged under sustainable development goal 1 of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals. This is because the natural and environmental resources form the basis of the 2030 SDGs Agenda for provision of the resources required for eradication of poverty. These resources however require conservation for the sake of the current and future generations. It is also true that conservation principles and practices evolve and adapt to the cultural, political, social and economic environments in which they take place. It is for this reason that cultural practices of communities become critical in giving communities a chance to participate in sustainable development discourse. It has been observed that conservation practices are intimately linked to codes of ethics dictated by local and/or international systems of values. In turn, these values are inscribed in legal frameworks or they comply with legal texts.

Arguably, it is not enough for the laws in Kenya to acknowledge the place of communities’ cultural practices; there is a need to actually implement and incorporate these practices in environmental management and conservation measures through engaging communities in national plans and strategies geared towards the realisation of the sustainable development goals. Notably, while Kenya has been making progress towards realisation of the SDGs, if a 2017 Report by the Ministry of Devolution dubbed ‘Implementation of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in Kenya is anything to go by, there is little evidence of incorporation of communities’ practices and indigenous knowledge in tackling the challenges that are likely to derail the realisation of the Agenda 2030. The process seems to be state-led, with communities playing a peripheral role. They only seem to be included in making peace, which in itself is critical for development, but that is just about all.

The farthest the Report has gone in demonstrating communities’ inclusion is ‘the Government putting in place mechanisms to foster peace among warring communities through initiatives like joint Cultural Festivals, and signing treaties on cultural exchange programmes with 51 countries hosting Kenya Missions’ in pursuit of SDG Goal 16 on ‘promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all level’. Thus, while there are admittedly policy, legal and institutional frameworks meant to promote the utilization of cultural and traditional community knowledge in national development, there is little evidence that the same is actively being pursued.

*This article is an extract from the Article: “Integrating Community Practices and Cultural Voices into the Sustainable Development Discourse,” (2021) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development Volume 6(2), p. 45  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). Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. 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 among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2022.


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Anne-Marie Deisser and Mugwima Njuguna, Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage in Kenya (2016) 1 accessed 6 January 2021.

Cities U and Governments L, Culture in the Sustainable Development Goals: a Guide for Local Action (Academic Press 2015) accessed 3 January 2021.

Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005, Paris, 20 October 2005.

Constitution of Kenya, 2010, Laws of Kenya, Government Printer, Nairobi.

Dessein, J. et al (ed), ‘Culture in, for and as Sustainable Development: Conclusions from the COST Action IS1007 Investigating Cultural Sustainability,’ (University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2015), p. 14. Available at (accessed 6 January 2021).

Harris J, ‘Basic Principles of Sustainable Development’ (2001).

Human Rights Watch, ‘Kenya: Abusive Evictions in Mau Forest’ (Human Rights Watch, 20 September 2019) (accessed 6 January 2021).

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Republic of Kenya, Implementation of the Agenda 2030 For Sustainable Development in Kenya, June, 2017, 45 (accessed 6 January 2021).

The Ngorongoro Declaration on Safeguarding African World Heritage as a Driver of Sustainable Development, adopted in Ngorongoro, Tanzania on 4 June 2016.

UNDP, ‘Sustainable Development Goals | UNDP in Kenya’ (UNDP) kenya/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html (accessed 6 January 2021).

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ‘Culture for Sustainable Development,’ available at Accessed 6 January 2021.

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News & Analysis

The Roles of the Three Parts of the Permanent Court of Arbitration




H.E. Amb. Marcin Czepelak, the Fourteenth Secretary-General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

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News & Analysis

Brief History of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)




By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, C.Arb, Current Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Representing the Republic of Kenya.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is a 124 Years Old Intergovernmental Organization currently with 122 contracting states. It was established at the turn of 20th Century during the first Hague Peace Conference held between 18th May and 29th July 1899. The conference was an initiative of then Russian Czar Nicholas II to discuss peace and disarmament and specifically with the object of “seeking the most effective means of ensuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and lasting peace, and, above all, of limiting the progressive development of existing armaments.” The culmination of the conference was the adoption of a Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which dealt not only with arbitration but also with other methods of pacific settlement, such as good offices and mediation.

The aim of the conference was to “strengthen systems of international dispute resolution” especially international arbitration which in the last century had proven effective for the purpose with number of successful international arbitrations being concluded among Nations. The Alabama arbitration of 1871-1872 between the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) under the Treaty of Washington of 1871 culminating in the arbitral tribunal’s award that the UK pay the US compensation for breach of neutrality during American Civil War which it did had demonstrated the effectiveness of arbitration in settling of international disputes and piqued interest of many practitioners in it as a mode of dispute resolution during the latter years of the nineteenth century.

The Institut de Droit International adopted a code of procedure for arbitration in 1875 to answer the need for a general law of arbitration governing for countries and parties wishing to have recourse to international arbitration. The growth of arbitration as a mode of international dispute resolution formed the background of the 1899 conference and informed its most enduring achievement, namely, the establishment of the PCA as the first global mechanism for the settlement of disputes between states. Article 16 of the 1899 Convention recognized that “in questions of a legal nature, and especially in the interpretation or application of International Conventions” arbitration is the “most effective, and at the same time the most equitable, means of settling disputes which diplomacy has failed to settle.”

In turn, the 1899 Convention provided for the creation of permanent machinery to enable the setting up of arbitral tribunals as necessary and to facilitate their work under the auspices of the institution it named as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). In particular, Article 20 of the 1899 Convention stated that “[w]ith the object of facilitating an immediate recourse to arbitration for international differences which it has not been possible to settle by diplomacy, the signatory Powers undertake to organize a Permanent Court of Arbitration, accessible at all times and operating, unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, in accordance with the rules of procedure inserted in the present Convention.” In effect, the Convention set up a permanent system of international arbitration and institutionalized the law and practice of arbitration in a definite and acceptable way.

As a result, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was established in 1900 and began operating in 1902. The PCA as established consisted of a panel of jurists designated by each country acceding to the Convention with each country being entitled to designate up to four from among whom the members of each arbitral tribunal might be chosen. In addition, the Convention created a permanent Bureau, located in The Hague, with functions similar to those of a court registry or secretariat. The 1899 Convention also laid down a set of rules of procedure to govern the conduct of arbitrations under the PCA framework.

The second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 saw a revision of the 1899 Convention and improvement of the rules governing arbitral proceedings. Today, the PCA has developed into a modern, multi-faceted arbitral institution perfectly situated to meet the evolving dispute resolution needs of the international community. The Permanent Court of Arbitration has also diversified its service offering alongside those contemplated by the Conventions. For instance, today the International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration serves as a registry in important international arbitrations. In 1993, the Permanent Court of Arbitration adopted new “Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes between Two Parties of Which Only One Is a State” and, in 2001, “Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Natural Resources and/or the Environment”.


PCA Website: (accessed on 25th May 2023).

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News & Analysis

Former KCB Company Secretary Sues Over Unlawful Dismissal




Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania who has sued the Bank for Unlawful Dismissal

Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania has sued the lender seeking reinstatement or be compensated for illegal sacking almost three years ago. Lawyer Kania was the KCB Group company secretary until restructuring of the lender in 2021 that saw some senior executives dropped.

Through the firm of Senior Counsel Wilfred Nderitu, Kamau wants the court to order KCB Group to unconditionally reinstate him to employment without altering any of the contractual terms until his retirement in December 2025.

In his court documents filed before Employment and Labour Relations Court, the career law banker seeks the court to declare the reorganization of the company structure a nullity and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution. He further wants the court to declare that the position of Group Company Secretary did not at any time cease to exist within the KCB Group structure.

He further urged the Employment Court to declare that the recruitment and appointment of Bonnie Okumu, his former assistant, as the Group Company Secretary, in relation to the contemporaneous termination of his employment, was unprocedural, insufficient and inappropriate to infer a lawful termination of his employment.

“A declaration that the factual and legal circumstances of the Petitioner’s termination of employment were insufficient and inappropriate to infer a redundancy against him, and that any redundancy declared by the KCB Group in relation to him was therefore null, void and of no legal effect and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau says he was subjected to discriminatory practices by the KCB Bank Group in violation of his fundamental right to equality and freedom from discrimination as guaranteed in Article 27 of the Constitution and the termination of his employment was unfair, unjustified, illegal, null and void.

Lawyer Kamau further seeks the court to declare that the Non-Compete Clause in the 2016 Contract is unenforceable by the KCB Group as against him and is voidable by him as against the Bank ab initio, byreason of the termination of the Petitioner’s employment having been a violation of Articles 41(1) and 47(1) and (2) of the Constitution, and of the Employment Act.

He also wants the Employment Court to find that finding that KCB’s group legal representation by Messrs of Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates law firm in respect of his claim for unlawful termination of employment resulted in a clear conflict of interest by reason of the fact that a Founding and Senior Partner at the said firm lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga is also the Chairman of the CBK’s Board of Directors.

“A Declaration that the circumstances of KCB’s legal representation by Messrs. Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates resulted in a violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to have the employment dispute decided independently and impartially, as guaranteed in Article 50(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau is seeking damages against both KCB Group and Central Bank of Kenya jointly and severally for the violation of his constitutional and fundamental right to fair labour practices.

He wants  further wants court to declare that CBK is liable to petitioner on account of its breach of statutory duty to effectively regulate KCB Group to ensure that KCB complied with the Central Bank of Kenya Prudential Guidelines and all other Laws, Rules, Codes and Standards, and that, as an issuer of securities, it complied with capital markets legislation.

Kamau through his lawyer Nderitu told the court that he was involved in Shareholder engagement in introducing the Group aide-mémoire that significantly improved the management of the Annual General Meetings, including obtaining approval without voting through the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Kenya Commercial Bank Limited among others.

He said that during his employment at KCB Bank Kenya and with the KCB Group, he initially worked well with former KCB CEO Joseph Oigara until 2016 when the CEO allegedly started sidelining him by removing the legal function from his reporting line.

He further claims he was transferred from the Group’s offices at Kencom House to its offices Upper Hill under the guise that the Petitioner was merely to support the KCB Group Board.

He adds that at that point his roles were given to Okumu for reasons that were not related to work demands.  He stated that Oigara at one time proposed that he should leave his role in the KCB Group and go and serve as the Company Secretary of the National Bank of Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of the Group, a suggestion which he disagreed with to Oigara’s utter annoyance.

Kamau stated that his work was thenceforth unfairly discredited, leading to his being taken through a disciplinary process whose intended outcome failed miserably, and the Petitioner was vindicated.

“More specifically, the Petitioner contends that the purported creation of a new organizational structure towards the end of 2020 was in fact Oigara’s orchestration targeted to remove certain individuals by requiring them to undergo interviews in the pretext that new roles were created, and amounted to a further violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to fair labour practices under Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” said in his court documents.

He further adds that this sham reorganization demonstrates how the role of the KCB Group Company Secretary purportedly ceased to be and was then very briefly replaced with a new role of the KCB Group General Counsel. The role of KCB Group Company Secretary then ‘resurfaced’ immediately thereafter, in total violation of legal and regulatory requirements.

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