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Proposals for the Realization of Social Justice in Kenya



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 proposals for realizing social justice in Kenya include strengthening and supporting institutions such as the Judiciary in order to achieve the right of access to justice, encouraging meaningful participation of the media and learning institutions in combating social injustice and supporting county governments through adequate budgetary allocation and timely release of funds to enable them discharge their mandate under the Constitution. We discuss each of these proposals in turn: –

Strengthening and Supporting Institutions Such as the Judiciary in Order to Achieve the Right of Access to Justice.

Article 20(4) (a) of the Constitution of Kenya provides that the court, in interpreting the Bill of Rights, should promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, equity and freedom. In addition, Article 21 (3) requires the court to address the needs of the vulnerable groups within the society, including women, older members of society, persons with disability, children, youth, members of minority or marginalized communities, and members of particular ethnic, religious or cultural communities.

In ensuring equality and non-discrimination, Article 27 (6) obligates the State to give full effect to the realization of the right to equality and freedom from discrimination by taking legislative and other measures, including affirmative action programmes and policies designed to redress any disadvantage suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination. Kenyan courts have also clearly expressed themselves on the place of social justice and access to justice generally. For instance, in the case of Kenya Bus Service Ltd & Another V Minister for Transport & 2 others [2012] eKLR, the Court stated as follows:

  1. By incorporating the right of access to justice, the Constitution requires us to look beyond the dry letter of the law. The right of access to justice is a reaction to and a protection against legal formalism and dogmatism. (See “Law and Practical Programme for Reforms” (1992) 109 SALJ 22) Article 48 must be located within the Constitutional imperative that recognises as the Bill of Rights as the framework for social, economic and cultural policies. Without access to justice the objects of the Constitution which is to build a society founded upon the rule of law, dignity, social justice and democracy cannot be realised for it is within the legal processes that the rights and fundamental freedoms are realised. Article 48 therefore invites the court to consider the conditions which clog and fetter the right of persons to seek the assistance of courts of law.

Lawyers have also been challenged- that in order to accomplish meaningful social change, they must also move beyond their traditional role as mediaries between clients and the justice system and work collaboratively with marginalized communities. To this end, lawyers should stand as leaders to help underprivileged people obtain the basic necessities of life and dignity through three pillars of new social justice lawyering: social justice lawyering, leadership, and public policy advocacy. This is because lawyers in particular are trained with the tools needed to critically analyze law and policies, problem solve around complex social issues, and use writing as a form of advocacy.

These social justice lawyering roles and pillars are summarized as follows: The first pillar, social justice lawyering, focuses on using the law as a tool to dismantle systems of oppression and create equal access to justice. The second pillar challenges lawyers to develop their leadership skills and strengthen the leadership capacity of others. Within the leadership capacity, lawyers can aid in empowering others. This moves beyond serving a particular client to acknowledging that each person can serve as an invaluable contributor in the process of social change. Lawyers are challenged to explore the question: “Do you grow the people whom you lead?” Finally, the third pillar is the foundation of systems change and policy reform.

Public policy advocacy focuses on working with communities to organize and mobilize around social justice issues impacting their daily lives. This type of advocacy cultivates the transformational power of collective engagement with the goal in mind of fostering equitable policies. By applying the principles of “new social justice lawyering” lawyers can collaborate with marginalized communities to realize a vision of justice and equity.

Meaningful Participation of the Media and Learning Institutions in combating Social Injustice

While learning institutions play an important role in providing education which is a very relevant tool in economic, social and political empowerment of communities through future job opportunities, alleviating poverty and enabling public participation in governance, they can also be very useful in changing attitudes in the society. This is however not to say that other members of the society and institutions should sit back; the country’s transformation agenda should be a concerted effort from all. It has rightly been pointed out that the active and meaningful participation of citizens in public affairs is the distinguishing feature of democratic societies, which are judged by the extent to which governments open up to citizen involvement in public affairs and the space they give for citizens to hold the government accountable.

Supporting county governments through adequate budgetary allocation and timely release of funds to enable them discharge their mandate under the Constitution.

There is a need for timely release of adequate funds to the concerned organs and departments in both the national and county governments’ level in order to support the fulfilment of the state obligations towards realisation of socioeconomic rights in the country. In John Kabui Mwai & 3 Others V Kenya National Examination Council & 2 Others [2011] eKLR, a Three-Judge High Court Bench stated as follows: In our view, the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights in the Constitution is aimed at advancing the socio-economic needs of the people of Kenya, including those who are poor, in order to uplift their human dignity.

The protection of these rights is an indication of the fact that the Constitution’s transformative agenda looks beyond merely guaranteeing abstract equality. There is a commitment to transform Kenya from a society based on socioeconomic deprivation to one based on equal and equitable distribution of resources. This is borne out by Articles 6(3) and 10 (2) (b). The realisation of socio-economic rights means the realization of the conditions of the poor and less advantaged and the beginning of a generation that is free from socio-economic need. One of the obstacles to the realisation of this objective, however, is limited financial resources on the part of the Government. The available resources are not adequate to facilitate the immediate provision of socio-economic goods and services to everyone on demand as individual rights.

There has to be a holistic approach to providing socio-economic goods and services that focus beyond the individual. Socio-economic rights are by their very nature ideologically loaded. The realisation of these rights involves the making of ideological challenges which, among others, impact on the nature of the country’s economic system. This is because these rights engender positive obligations and have budgetary implications which require making political choices. In our view, a public body should be given appropriate leeway in determining the best way of meeting its constitutional obligations (Emphasis added). Through these and many other measures, Kenya will fast -track the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals and achieve the ideal of a society that is just and founded on the principles of equality and fairness.

*This article is an extract from the Article “Sustainable Development Goals and Social Justice in Kenya” 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., “Sustainable Development Goals and Social Justice in Kenya” (2021) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development (JCMSD) 7(1), p. 1; Available at: (accessed on 28th May 2022).

News & Analysis

Why is THE LAWYER AFRICA Listing Top Law Firms and Top Lawyers?




The Litigation Hall of Fame | Kenya in 2023 (The Most Distinguished 50 Litigation Lawyers in Kenya).

We live in the age of information overload where too much information (TMI) is increasingly making it difficult to find actionable legal data about a good law firm or lawyer. At the same time, legal services are increasingly going digital and finding your next lawyer is a now a matter of a few clicks. Many existing, new and potential clients are interested to know more about the lawyer handling or likely to handle their next case or transaction as every HR Manager seeks to know how their In-house Lawyer or next hire compares to peers.

The biggest dilemma especially for commercial consumers of legal services  is where to begin the journey in finding the law firm or the lawyer to meet their immediate legal need created by their new venture,  business, transaction or dispute. In-house counsel are also called upon to justify opting for one lawyer or law firm or over the other.  Hence, the rise in the popularity of international law directories rankings as an attempt to fill the yawning gap by listing a few dozen lawyers and law firms in esoteric categories that often don’t align with the legal needs of the domestic legal market.

But ranking two dozen elite lawyers or big law firms in a big jurisdiction like Kenya there are over 20,000 lawyers is merely a drop in the ocean. The result is the same candidates are listed year after year and an In-house Legal Team looking to infuse new blood in their external counsel panel is left very little discretion. At best, International legal ranking only succeed to tilt the scales in favour of few big firms and their lawyers and to aid the choice of International Legal buyers who are constrained for time in picking their External Counsel in jurisdictions where they cannot find referrals.

The questions that beg are: What about the other top law firms and lawyers who are equally good if not better but don’t have the time to fill the technical paperwork that comes with International Legal Directories rankings? What about Domestic Legal Buyers who simply want to justify why they prefer a lawyer or law firm not listed in the International Directory? Can increasing the number of listed lawyers or law firms from less 0.1% of the profession (as captured by International Law Directories) to at least 1% of the profession or higher for those specializing in the practice area help in enhancing access to justice in Africa? Can ranking law firms by number of fee earners help in the quest for a more accurate bird’s eye view of a country’s legal landscape?

At THE LAWYER AFRICA, we have set out to list Top Law Firms and Top Lawyers in the various practice areas in a way that democratizes law rankings and listings and brings this essential value add within reach of most lawyers and every law firms doing top legal work. We don’t promise to list all the top lawyers or law firms, but we commit to make sure every lawyer or law firm we list is at the top of the game in the listed practice area. We aim to help both little known and already known law firms and lawyers doing top legal work in their area of specialization get discovered by discerning clients and possibly get more opportunities to do great work.

THE LAWYER AFRICA is looking to list up to Top 200 Law Firms in every African Jurisdiction based on their reputation and number of fee earners headcount with a goal of listing at least Africa’s Top 1,000 Law Firms which are leaders in their respective countries. We also seek to list up to Top 1,000 Lawyers in every country in Africa in at least five main practice areas, namely, Litigation, Commercial Law, Property law, In-house and Private Sector or more.

THE LAWYER AFRICA categorizes law firms in large jurisdictions as Top 5, Top 10, Top 20, Top 50 and Top 100 (and allow tying where number of counsel is equal). The Top Lawyers are listed in three categories, namely, Hall of Fame (the Distinguished Top 50 or 75 Practitioners in a Practice Area), Top 100 (the Leading Top 100 Practitioners in a Practice Area) and Up-and-Coming (the promising Top 50 or 75 Practitioners in a Practice Area).  The placing of a listings depends on a number of key factors including the number of key matters or transactions handled, years in practice and experience, size of team working under a counsel, reputation and opinion of peers (where available) as established by THE LAWYER AFRICA.

THE LAWYER AFRICA prefers to list a counsel in only one listing, as far as possible. The Team tries (as far as possible) not to contact listed law firms or lawyers before the listing is finalized in the first. However, a listed law firm or lawyer may be contacted at the pre-launch stage of a list for purposes of selling merchandise relating to the launch but such engagement will not affect the listing. In case of future listings, it is expected that interested lawyers or law firms who feel they were previously left out of the list may to provide information for consideration to determine if they qualify for the next listing but that will not guarantee any listing.

THE LAWYER AFRICA undertakes not to charge for listing any lawyer or law firm. However, upon publication of a listing, as part of recovering the sunk costs we incur in the research and publication of the listings, we shall charge a token for printing and shipping of Quality A3 Certificate for listed Law Firms and/or A4 Certificate for listed Lawyers who wish to have or display the branded souvenirs or to use our proprietary digital materials in their business  branding. We may also charge listed and unlisted law firms and lawyers an affordable fee for limited banner advertising or publishing of enhanced profiles next to the listings.

For any question or feedback on any list or listing, feel free to contact THE LAWYER AFRICA PUBLISHER at info[at]thelawyer[dot]africa.

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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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