12 April 2018

Kenya: DCJ Mwilu Urges Judges to Be Firm, Avoid Unnecessary Adjournments

Nairobi — Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu has urged judges to be firm in the management of cases so as to expedite hearing and determination of legal disputes.

According to Mwilu, courts could do away with frequent adjournments that have often characterized commercial disputes and as a result, reduce significantly the number of pending cases.

"Although Kenyans file more cases than what we're able to deal with every day, if we put our feet down - because we have the power to do so - and require of counsel to proceed with their cases, we would to a very great extent reduce the number of what I consider myself to be totally unnecessary adjournments," she said on Thursday.

She was speaking during the opening session of a two-day National Alternative Dispute Resolution Stakeholders' Forum jointly convened by the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Taskforce and Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA).

The Deputy Chief Justice said the Judiciary was keen on supporting ADR explaining its vital role in promoting access to justice.

"That ADR is directly linked to enhanced access to justice is axiomatic; it is widely acknowledged that ADR is crucial to enhancing access to justice in any justice system," she said at the workshop themed 'Cultivating a Robust Coordinated Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Framework in Kenya Towards Sustained Economic Growth and Access to Justice.'

Lady Justice Mwilu's admonition came even as the Chairperson of the ADR Taskforce, Justice Fred Ochieng', pointed out the immense economic opportunities a swift dispute resolution framework could offer the country.

"International Commercial Arbitration has become a net export earner. When we 'transport' our disputes to other cities we promote their tourism, legal and arbitration sectors," Justice Ochieng' observed.

He said an enhanced ADR mechanism would boost the local economy.

"We aim to have a harmonized structure of ADR at the end of this workshop but most importantly linking it to the judiciary," said Justice Ochieng'.

Speaking at the event, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Adan Mohamed said the slow pace at which commercial disputes were resolved in the country acted as bottlenecks in the government's pursuit for low interest rates in the banking sector.

He said banks have as a result resorted to pricing inefficiencies in commercial dispute resolution.

"What commercial banks do is they price some of these inefficiencies in how we get issues resolved in this country into the overall cost of their loans and thus high interest rates," CS Mohamed pointed.

While noting the opportunity ADR presented in terms of expediting resolution of commercial disputes much faster, CS Mohamed said the government was willing to support a strong framework to optimize ADR mechanisms.


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