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Finality of Arbitral Decisions in Kenya: Review of the Nyutu Case Decision



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, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and African Arbitrator of the Year 2022 Shortlisted Nominee. Please follow this link to vote for him by Midnight, Monday, 13th June 2022:*

The question of finality of arbitral decisions in Kenya is one that has attracted a heated debate with a recent court case having gone all the way to the Supreme Court of Kenya. In Nyutu Agrovet Limited v Airtel Networks Kenya Limited;Chartered Institute of Arbitrators-Kenya Branch (Interested Party) [2019] eKLR, an appeal to the Supreme Court of Kenya from a Ruling of the Court of Appeal which had dismissed an appeal against the decision of the High Court in Nyutu Agrovet Ltd v Airtel Network Kenya Ltd Nairobi H.C.C.C. No.350 of 2009. The Court of Appeal in its Ruling had found that there is no right of appeal to that Court following a decision made under Section 35 of the Arbitration Act 1995 (the Act), and so struck out the entire appeal to it. The High Court had set aside the entire arbitral award purely on the ground that the award contained decisions on matters outside the distributorship agreement, the terms of reference to arbitration or the contemplation of the parties and for other reasons and deliberations contained in the learned Judge’s Ruling.

At the Court of Appeal level, the Court of Appeal unanimously held that the decision by the High Court made under Section 35 of the Act was final and no appeal lay to the Court of Appeal; thus striking out the appeal and awarding costs to Airtel. The question for determination as framed by the Court of Appeal was whether there is any right of appeal to the Court of Appeal upon a determination by the High Court under Section 35 of the Act. The Supreme Court set out to address the following issues: whether Sections 10 and 35 of the Act contravene a party’s right to access justice under Articles 48, 50(1) and 164(3) of the Constitution and are therefore unconstitutional to that extent; whether there is a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal following a decision by the High Court under Section 35 of the Arbitration Act; what are the appropriate reliefs; and who should bear the costs of the Appeal.

While commenting on the finality of arbitral awards, the Supreme Court observed as follows:

[52] We note in the above context that, the Arbitration Act, was introduced into our legal system to provide a quicker way of settling disputes which is distinct from the Court process. The Act was also formulated in line with internationally accepted principles and specifically the Model Law. With regard to the reason why some provisions of the Act speak to the finality of High Court decisions, the Hansard of the National Assembly during the debate on the Arbitration Act indicates that, “the time limits and the finality of the High Court decision on some procedural matters [was] to ensure that neither party frustrates the arbitration process [thus] giving arbitration advantage over the usual judicial process.” It was also reiterated that the limitation of the extent of the Courts’ interference was to ensure an, “expeditious and efficient way of handling commercial disputes.”

[53] Similarly, the Model Law also advocates for “limiting and clearly defining Court involvement” in arbitration. This reasoning is informed by the fact that “parties to an arbitration agreement make a conscious decision to exclude court jurisdiction and prefer the “finality and expediency of the arbitral process.” Thus, arbitration was intended as an alternative way of solving disputes in a manner that is expeditious, efficient and devoid of procedural technicalities. Indeed, our Constitution in Article 159(2) (c) acknowledges the place of arbitration in dispute settlement and urges all Courts to promote it. However, the arbitration process is not absolutely immune from the Court process, hence the present conundrum.

[54] The Model Law indeed advises that all instances of courts intervention must be provided for in legislation. That is the explanation that the Model Law accords to Article 5 which is in pari materia with Section 10 of the Act. The said Section 10 provides, “Except as provided in this Act, no Court shall intervene in matters governed by this Act.” On the other hand, Article 5 provides, “In matters governed by this Law, no court shall intervene except where so provided in this Law.”

[55] In illuminating the meaning of Article 5, the explanatory notes of the Model Law provide that, beyond the instances specifically provided for in the law, no Court shall interfere in matters governed by it. That further, the main purpose of Article 5 is to ensure predictability and certainty of the arbitral process. That understanding is also discerned in the Court of Appeal decision of Singapore in the case of L W Infrastructure Pte Ltd v Lim Chin San Contractors Pte Ltd and another appeal [2012] SGCA 57 where the Court stated that: “The effect of art 5 of the Model Law is to confine the power of the Court to intervene in an arbitration to those instances which are provided for in the Model Law and to ‘exclude any general or residual powers’ arising from sources other than the Model Law….The raison d’être of art 5 of the Model Law is not to promote hostility towards judicial intervention but to ‘satisfy the need for certainty as to when court action is permissible’.” ………….

[57] Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that just like Article 5, Section 10 of the Act was enacted, to ensure predictability and certainty of arbitration proceedings by specifically providing instances where a Court may intervene. Therefore, parties who resort to arbitration, must know with certainty instances when the jurisdiction of the Courts may be invoked. According to the Act, such instances include, applications for setting aside an award, determination of the question of the appointment of an arbitrator and recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards amongst other specified grounds.

[58] Having stated as above therefore we reject Nyutu’s argument that Section 10 is unconstitutional to the extent that it can be interpreted to limit the Court of Appeal’s jurisdiction to hear appeals arising from decisions of the High Court determined under Section 35 of the Act. We have shown that Section 10 is meant to ensure that a party will not invoke the jurisdiction of the Court unless the Act specifically provides for such intervention. With regard to Section 35, the kind of intervention contemplated is an application for setting aside an arbitral award only. However, Section 10 cannot be used to explain whether an appeal may lie against a decision of the High Court confirming or setting aside an award. This is because by the time an appeal is preferred, if at all, a Court (in this case the High Court) would have already assumed jurisdiction under Section 35 and made a determination therefore. Thus, by the High Court assuming jurisdiction under Section 35, it would conform to Section 10 by ensuring that the Court’s intervention is only on instances that are specified by the Act and therefore predictability and certainty commended by Article 5 of the Model Law is assured. The question whether an appeal may lie against the decision of the High Court made under Section 35 thus still remains unanswered because, just like Section 35, Section 10 does not answer that question.

The Supreme Court went on to affirm the need for limited court intervention by stating as follows:

[69] The above comparative review thus shows circumstances where a decision challenging an award may be appealable. With regard to jurisdictions that grant leave to appeal, Courts have held that leave to appeal may be granted where there is unfairness or misconduct in the decision making process and in order to protect the integrity of the judicial process. In addition, leave would be granted in order to prevent an injustice from occurring and to restore confidence in the process of administration of justice. In other cases, where the subject matter is very important as a result of the ensuing economic value or the legal principle at issue. An appeal may also arise when there is need to bring clarity to the law by settling conflicting decisions. However as cautioned by the Singapore Courts, an intervention by the Courts should not be used as an opportunity to delve into the merits of the arbitral award but rather that the intervention should be limited to the narrowly circumscribed instances for reviewing or setting aside an award.

[77] In concluding on this issue, we agree with the Interested Party to the extent that the only instance that an appeal may lie from the High Court to the Court of Appeal on a determination made under Section 35 is where the High Court, in setting aside an arbitral award, has stepped outside the grounds set out in the said Section and thereby made a decision so grave, so manifestly wrong and which has completely closed the door of justice to either of the parties. This circumscribed and narrow jurisdiction should also be so sparingly exercised that only in the clearest of cases should the Court of Appeal assume jurisdiction.

[78] In stating as above, we reiterate that Courts must draw a line between legitimate claims which fall within the ambit of the exceptional circumstances necessitating an appeal and claims where litigants only want a shot at an opportunity which is not deserved and which completely negates the whole essence of arbitration as an expeditious and efficient way of delivering justice. The High Court and the Court of Appeal particularly have that onerous yet simple task. A leave mechanism as suggested by Kimondo J. and the Interested Party may well be the answer to the process by which frivolous, time wasting and opportunistic appeals may be nipped in the bud and thence bring arbitration proceedings to a swift end. We would expect the Legislature to heed this warning within its mandate.

[79] Having held as above, does the case at hand justify the Court of Appeal’s intervention” In answer to that question, it will be noted that the High Court (Kimondo J) set aside the arbitral award on the grounds inter alia that the award contained decisions on matters outside the distributorship agreement, the terms of the reference to arbitration or the contemplation of parties. In granting leave to appeal, the learned Judge washed his hands of the matter and left it to the Court of Appeal to determine the question of the right to appeal to that Court. It so determined hence the present Appeal.

[80] The Court of Appeal, it is now clear, never determined the substantive complaint by Nyutu as to whether the learned Judge properly applied his mind to the grounds for setting aside an award under Section 35 of the Act. We have clarified the circumscribed jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal in that regard. Without a firm decision by the Court of Appeal on that issue, we cannot but direct that the matter be remitted back to that Court to determine whether the appeal before it meets the threshold explained in this Judgment or in the words of Kimondo J, the “journey was a false start”.

In conclusion, the majority held as follows: [109] Consequent upon our findings above, we make the following orders: (a) The Petition of Appeal dated 15th July 2016 is hereby allowed as prayed. (b) The Order of the Court of Appeal made on 6th March 2015 is hereby set aside in its entirety.

*This article is an extract from the article “Looking into the Future: Making Kenya a Preferred Seat for International Arbitration,” 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 as one of the leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts by the Chambers Global Guide 2022. 


Muigua, K., “Looking into the Future: Making Kenya a Preferred Seat for International Arbitration,” Available at: (accessed on 11/06/2022)

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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News & Analysis

Court of Appeal Upholds Eviction of Radcliffes from Karen Land




Adrian Radcliffe, the Expatriate Squatter, Evicted from Karen Property by Innocent Purchaser for Value

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.

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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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