News & Analysis
Extent of Court Intervention in international commercial arbitration in Kenya
By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), The African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021*
The Kenyan Arbitration Act has as far as possible attempted to reflect the international best practices in international commercial arbitration. For instance, Section 10 of the Act states that except as provided in this Act, no court shall intervene in matters governed by this Act. The concept of limitation of judicial intervention is generally accepted in arbitral practice across the world. The English Arbitration Act provides that ‘in matters governed by this Act the court should not intervene except as provided by this Act17.’ Further, the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration provides that ‘in matters governed by this law, no courts shall intervene except where so provided in this law.’ Thus, it has rightly been observed that the role of courts should therefore be merely facilitative otherwise excessive judicial interference with awards will not only be a paralyzing blow to the healthy functioning of arbitration but will also be a clear negation of the legislative intent of the Arbitration Act.
Courts in Kenya have pronounced themselves on the issue of judicial intervention in arbitration. The Supreme Court of Kenya in Nyutu Agrovet Limited v Airtel Networks Kenya Limited; Chartered Institute of Arbitrators-Kenya Branch (Interested Party), stated as follows:  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.”  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.
Further, the Supreme Court of Kenya in Geo Chem Middle East –vs- Kenya Bureau of Standards decided as follows:
- Having so stated, we must reiterate that arbitration is meant to expeditiously resolve commercial and other disputes where parties have submitted themselves to that dispute resolution mechanism. The role of Courts has been greatly diminished notwithstanding the narrow window created by Sections 35 and 39 of the Act. To expect arbitration disputes to follow the usual appeal mechanism in the judicial system to the very end would sound a death knell to the expected expedition in such matters and our decisions in Nyutu and Synergy should not be taken as stating anything to the contrary. In this regard, one issue we did not pronounce ourselves on in the Nyutu and Synergy decisions, is whether a further appeal lies to this Court from a determination by the Court of Appeal. For the avoidance of doubt, we now declare that in conformity with the principle of the need for expedition in arbitration matters, where the Court of Appeal assumes jurisdiction in conformity with the principle established in these two decisions, and delivers a consequential Judgment, no further appeal should ordinarily lie therefrom to this Court.
A similar position was also held by the Supreme Court in Cape Holdings Limited –vs- Synergy Industrial Credit Limited where the Supreme Court reiterated the decision in Geo Chem Middle East –vs- Kenya Bureau of Standards and refused to entertain an appeal emanating from the Court of Appeal , where the Court of Appeal had assumed jurisdiction and delivered a consequential judgment in conformity with the principles established in Nyutu Agrovet Limited v Airtel Networks Kenya Limited; Chartered Institute of Arbitrators-Kenya Branch (Interested Party). The precedent flowing from the above decisions highlights the extent of court intervention in arbitration in Kenya.
The Arbitration Act envisages a narrow window of court intervention within the confines of sections 35 and 39. However, the Act also allows intervention by the High Court to determine issues where parties fail to agree or to assist the arbitral tribunal in some other way. Section 6 of the Act confers the High court powers to stay legal proceedings and refer the matter to arbitration where there is pre-existing agreement to refer the matter for arbitration. Section 11(1) of the Act confers the High court the power to determine the number of arbitrators if parties fail to agree on the same. Regarding the appointment of arbitrators, Section 12 of the Act confers the court the power to appoint the arbitrator(s) where parties fail to agree on the procedure of appointing the arbitrator(s). Section 7 of the Act confers the High Court the power to grant interim measures of protection where a party so requests. However, the section provides that where the arbitral tribunal has already ruled on such an application, then the High court will treat such a ruling as a conclusive outcome of that application. Section 14(1) of the Act grants the High Court the power to decide on an application by a party in arbitration proceedings challenging an arbitrator.
Further, Section 15(2) grants the High Court powers to decide on the termination of the mandate of an arbitrator who fails to act or whom it becomes impossible to act, where party are unable to do so. Section 17 thereof also gives the High court the powers to make the final decision on the question of jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal. Section 28 provides that the arbitral tribunal, or a party with the approval of the arbitral tribunal, may request from the High Court assistance in taking evidence, and the High Court may execute the request within its competence and according to its rules on taking evidence. Section 35 confers the High court powers to set aside an arbitral award under the circumstances provided under that provision. Section 35(1) is to the effect that recourse to the High Court against an arbitral award may be made only by an application for setting aside the award under subsections (2) and (3). This implication here is that the Court will not act in such matters unless a dissatisfied party invites it to do so.
The grounds which the applicant must prove for the arbitral award to be set aside are: incapacity of one of the parties; an invalid arbitration agreement; Lack of proper notice on the appointment of arbitrator, or of the arbitral proceedings or where the applicant was unable to present its case; where the award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or one outside the terms of reference to arbitration or matters beyond the scope of reference; where the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was contrary to the agreement of the parties except where such agreement was in conflict with provisions of the Act and the parties cannot derogate from such; or where fraud, undue influence or corruption affected the making of the award. Apart from the above, the High Court may also set aside arbitral awards where it finds that the subject-matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration under the law of Kenya; or the award is in conflict with the public policy of Kenya.
The Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration Act establishes a Court to be known as the Arbitral Court. The Court is to have exclusive original and appellate jurisdiction to hear and determine all disputes referred to it in accordance with this Act or any other written law and its decisions are to be final. These provisions are useful in guaranteeing confidentiality and non-interference ordinary national courts. Also significant is the provision that subject to any other rules of procedure by the Court, the Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, with necessary modifications, shall apply to matters governed by the Act.
*This article is an extract from published article “Nurturing International Commercial Arbitration in Kenya,” by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), CIArb (Kenya) ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Foremost Dispute Resolution Expert in Africa ranked among Top 6 Arbitrators in Kenya by Chambers and Partners, Leading Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized as one of the leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts by the Chambers Global Guide 2022 and is ranked among the Top 5 Arbitrators in Kenya in 2022 by The Lawyer Africa.
Muigua, K., “Nurturing International Commercial Arbitration in Kenya,” Available at: http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Nurturing-International-Commercial-Arbitration-in-Kenya.pdf (accessed 15 July 2022).
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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