News & Analysis
Checklist of Best Practices in Tackling Major Concerns in Virtual Arbitration
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.*
In order to guarantee success of the virtual arbitration process, the tribunal and the parties have to take into account several preliminary considerations. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) Guidance Note on Remote Dispute Resolution Proceedings recommends parties to plan and agree on preliminary considerations such as technology, software, equipment and connection to be used and allocation of sufficient timelines to eliminate possible connection or technical failures once the hearing has commenced. It is also recommended for parties and the tribunal to agree on the virtual platform to be used at the hearing at least one month before the hearing to ensure that every participant has access to such platform.
Further, to avoid possible lapses during the hearing due to limited technical knowhow, the International Chamber of Commerce advises tribunals and parties to schedule a tutorial session or sessions before the merits hearing to enhance their technical capacity. This can be in the form of a pre-hearing virtual conference where all technological means to be used at the hearing stage should be thoroughly tested. Possible technological lapses should be addressed at this stage and back-ups organized where there is need to do so. Parties should also agree on the venue of the arbitration taking into account technological and connection services.
It is advisable that for each location from which participants are joining the virtual hearing, there should be a qualified technician to address any technical concerns that may arise at the hearing stage.30 While organizing the virtual hearing rooms on digital platforms through videoconferencing, it should be ensured that all participants are visible and audible. The assistance of IT experts can be sought towards this end. It is also recommended that breakout rooms be organised for matters such as the tribunal’s deliberations which should not be visible or audible to the parties.
Before the hearing stage, the tribunal should ensure that all necessary pleadings and documents including witness statements and exhibits have been exchanged between the parties to avoid disruptions. During witness examination, it is recommended that the video conferencing system at the location of the witness should ensure enough visibility to see the witness and to verify that no unauthorised person is present with them. This is in order to eliminate some of the concerns such as witness coaching and ensure credibility of the witness testimony. The tribunal should require the witness to identify all the persons present at the location from where he/she is testifying and affirm that he/she is not receiving assistance from a third party during the testimony.
The witness should then give their testimony in the form of examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination under the tribunal’s directions. It is also important to address the privacy and confidentiality concerns that may arise during virtual arbitration proceedings. It should be ensured that access to all virtual hearing rooms and breakout rooms is strictly limited to the allocated participants. The tribunal can also request for affirmation of privacy from all participants at the commencement of the proceedings. Further, when exchanging sensitive data, the ICC recommends that parties should use encrypted emails which reduce the risk of hacking. Where all these steps have been complied with, it becomes possible to effectively conduct virtual arbitration proceedings with minimum setbacks.
Concerns Associated with Virtual Arbitration
One of the major concerns associated with virtual arbitration proceedings is the risk of technological failure. There is the danger of failure of video links or poor internet connectivity that may hinder the success of the process. It further becomes difficult to address such technical issues since participants would be in different locations. Virtual arbitration proceedings also create information security concerns. Privacy and confidentiality are essential characteristics of arbitration. However, in the conduct of virtual arbitration proceedings, external assistance required to operate technologies during the conduct of arbitration, including reporters and translators create confidentiality concerns.
Further, since virtual arbitration proceedings are normally followed by email communications in the form of witness statements, written submissions and arbitral awards there is potential risks of hacking. In case of hearings conducted by videoconferencing, the log- in details may be accessed by third parties who can gain unauthorised accesses to the proceedings thus raising security concerns. Further, where the tribunal renders an electronic award submitted to the parties via internet, it may be accessed by third parties against the principle of privacy that is central to arbitration.
Virtual arbitration hearings raise credibility concerns especially when it comes to examination of witnesses. There is a concern that the loss of in-person observation will impair the tribunal’s ability to assess the credibility and strength of the evidence especially on cross examination. One of the advantages of in person arbitration hearings is that the Tribunal is able to discern the credibility of a witness by observing his/her body language, facial expressions and tone. This element may be defeated in virtual arbitration proceedings. Further, there could be a possibility that the witness is being coached off- camera or even reading from a script not within the view of the tribunal.
The costs associated with technology necessary to facilitate virtual arbitration proceedings may result in some parties or advocates being locked away from the process. This would normally require strong internet connection and electronic gadgets such as laptops that may not be within the reach of everyone. Finally, in the scope of international commercial arbitration, logistical concerns arise especially where participants are from different time zones. Where parties are split across different continents e.g in Nairobi, Kenya and New York, USA, it becomes difficult to find a suitable time falling within the working hours of both participants. Consequently, one of the parties may be forced to sacrifice what would normally be their sleeping time to attend such proceedings.
How to Enhance the Efficacy of Virtual Arbitration
Due to the concerns created by the COVID-19 pandemic on the practice of arbitration, there is need for enhanced adoption of technologies such as virtual arbitration proceedings. Some of the measures that can be adopted to enhance virtual arbitration include.
Information Security Protection
Virtual arbitration creates information security concerns due to the unregulated nature of the internet. There is need to enhance information protection in order to retain the integrity of virtual arbitration. Arbitrators can seek the assistance of Information Technology (IT) experts in securing the proceedings and preventing unauthorised access by third parties. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) advises arbitral tribunals and the parties to consult and develop a cyber-protocol that lays out the manner in which the virtual hearing will be conducted. This ensures that the proceedings are safe from malicious attacks and data breaches.
Arbitrators should continue to improve themselves and keep up with the latest technological developments. Technology is increasingly taking centre stage in almost all aspects of life and arbitrators who do not appreciate its impact may find themselves becoming obsolete. Arbitrators should take individual effort and familiarize themselves with technologies such as video/audio conferencing, electronic signatures and e-filing that are necessary for the success of virtual arbitration. Arbitral institutions can also step in and provide training on complex technologies that may not be within the knowledge of arbitration practitioners.
Flexibility of the Proceedings
The tribunal and the parties should be more flexible in the conduct of virtual arbitration in order to eliminate some of the concerns. Where possible, parties can agree on a documents-only arbitration in disputes involving simple issues of facts and opinion. This eliminates the need for oral testimony of witnesses through hearing thus limiting the security concerns and technological requirements involved in virtual arbitration. The tribunal should also consider different time zones of the participants and schedule the proceedings during flexible hours.
*This article is an extract from the Article “Virtual Arbitration Amidst Covid-19 : Efficacy and Checklist for Best Practices” 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.
Muigua, K., “Virtual Arbitration Amidst Covid-19: Efficacy and Checklist for Best Practices,” Available at: http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Virtual-Arbitration-Proceedings-Amidst-COVID-19-Efficacy-and-Checklist-for-Best-Practices69523-Revised.pdf (accessed 22 April 2022).
News & Analysis
Former KCB Company Secretary Sues Over 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.
News & Analysis
Court of Appeal Upholds Eviction of Radcliffes from Karen Land
The Court of Appeal has stayed the decision of the Environment and Land Court purporting to reinstate Adrian Radcliffe into possession of the 5.7 Acre Karen Land by Kena Properties Ltd after eviction by the lawful owners in February 2022. Adrian Radcliffe who was evicted by Kena Properties Ltd, the innocent purchaser of the Land for value.
Before his eviction, Mr. Radcliffe had been living on the land as a squatter expatriate for 33 years without paying any rent. Since he moved into the property as a tenant, he only paid deposit for the land in August 1989 despite corresponding severally with the owner of the land. His attempt to acquire the land by adverse possession claim filed in 2005 was dismissed by Court in 2011 on the basis that he has engaged with the owner of the land July 1997 and agreed to buy the land which he failed to do. The High Court [Justice Kalpana Rawal as she then was] concluded that:
“His [Mr. Adrian Radcliffe] averments that he did not have any idea of the whereabouts of the Defendant and that he could possibly be not alive, were not only very sad but mala fide in view of the correspondence on record addressed by him to the Defendant’s wife. I would thus find that the averments made by him to the contrary are untrue looking to the facts of this case.”
On 10th March 2022, Mr. Adrian Radcliffe and Family purported to obtain court orders for reinstatement into the land. However, the Court of Appeal issued an interim stay of execution of the said orders. The Court of Appeal has now granted the application of Kena Properties Ltd and stayed the execution of the Environment and Land Court Order pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal.
The Court also stayed the proceedings at the Environment and Land Court on the matter during the pendency of the Appeal. In effect, the eviction orders issued by the Chief Magistrate Court for eviction of Mr. Adrian Radcliffe in favour of Kena Properties as the purchaser of the property for value were upheld and the company now enjoys unfettered ownership and possession of the suit property until the conclusion of the Appeal.
The Court of Appeal in granting the orders sought by Kena Properties Ltd concurred with Kena Properties Ltd that as the property owner it had an arguable appeal with a high probability of success which would be rendered nugatory if Adrian Radcliffe a trespasser was to resume his unlawful possession of the suit property, erect structures thereon, recklessly use or abuse the said suit property as he deems fit. In any case, that is bound to fundamentally alter the state of the suit property and render it unusable by Kena Properties Ltd as the property owner.
At the same time, the Appellate Court rubbished the argument of Adrian Radcliffe in opposition to the application for stay that he has been in occupation of the suit property for more than 30 years and that he and his family were unlawfully evicted from the suit property on 4th February, 2022. The Court also rejected Radcliffe’s claim that Kena Properties Ltd has no valid title to the suit property and held that as the purchaser, the company was entitled to enjoy ownership and possession of their property during the pendency of the appeal.
The Court dismissed claims of Mr. Adrian Radcliffe that Kena Properties Ltd as the property owner acquired title to the suit property illegally and unprocedurally finding to the contrary. Further, it rejected Adrian Radcliffe’s claim that Kena Properties as the purchaser cannot evict a legal occupier of a property putting paid to the claim that he was a legal occupier at the time of eviction.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Adrian Radcliffe cannot claim to be the legal occupier of the property having attempted to acquire it by adverse possession before the High Court thwarted his fraudulent scheme on 28th February 2011. Mr. Radcliffe did not appeal the 2011 High Court decision meaning it is still the law that he is not the owner of the land nor the legal occupier of the land having attempted to adversely acquire against the interests of the lawful owner who sold it to Kena Properties.
Mr. Adrian Radcliffe is a well-to-do Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) UNICEF consultant and former UN employee (who has been earning hefty House Allowance). Many have wondered why he has been defaulting in paying rent for 33 years on the prime plot of land in Karen while living large and taking his kids to most expensive schools in Kenya. No question, a local Kenyan could never have gotten away with such selfish impunity.
News & Analysis
Review: Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 9, No. 1
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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