International commercial arbitration in Kenya: is arbitration a viable alternative in resolving commercial disputes in Kenya?

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The purpose of this paper was to determine whether arbitration is a viable alternative for resolving commercial disputes in Kenya. More so, because Kenya has adopted the UNCITRAL Model law, 1985 and revised the same in line with the model law, 2006. Furthermore, Kenya has set up the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration, with an aim to promote and improve the conducting of arbitrations in the country. To answer the research question, the writer looked at the history of the arbitration law in Kenya, how the communities living in Kenya settled their disputes. In doing so, the writer looked at the dispute resolution mechanisms of the Kamba, the Kikuyu and the Kipsingis, all communities living in Kenya before the country was colonised by the British. We also looked at how the law of arbitration was introduced. Having established the basis of the Arbitration law in the country, the writer canvassed on the development of the law since independence in 1963 to the current situation. This included the support recently given to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms by the Constitution of Kenya as well as the establishment of the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration. The writer also gave an overview of the role of the court in arbitration in Kenya, giving instances and examples at which the law envisages the involvement of the court in the arbitration process. Court supervised arbitration was also canvassed. The paper went on to look at the situation of commercial arbitration in two other developing countries in Africa, South Africa and Mauritius. It was found that Mauritius, which enacted its International Arbitration Act in 2008, has moved decisively to market itself as a viable, safe and prospective place of international commercial arbitration. It was also established that South Africa has not been able to review its Arbitration law, which was enacted in 1965. Last the writer looked at the opportunities, the benefits and the challenges that face arbitration in Kenya today. The research was limited by the fact that it was not possible to write about the practice of all communities in Kenya and therefore the three chosen were taken as samples to represent all the others.

Includes bibliographical references.