The Government of Kenya will support the National Judiciary’s quest to develop the Kenya Judiciary Academy into a regional hub that would be beneficial to all East African Community (EAC) Partner States, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
President Kenyatta further disclosed that his government has allocated 55 acres of land in Nairobi for the construction of a world-class Kenya Judiciary Academy in a move to boost judicial education in Kenya and beyond.
“This support is already underway and the Kenya Judiciary Academy is already supporting the training of judges and judicial officers from Somalia and South Sudan,” said President Kenyatta.
President Kenyatta made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, who is also Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development, Hon. Adan Mohamed, during the Joint Symposium of the of 6th East Africa Chief Justices Forum and the East Africa Judicial Education Committee in Mombasa, Kenya.
The Head of State noted that efficiency of the judicial system in the resolution of commercial disputes and securing property rights is critical, noting that investors’ use this as a checkpoint in making investment decisions.
“The total banking sector balance sheet in Kenya is about KShs6 trillion. Approximately 10% of which is non-performing meaning those could be in disputes that end up in court. We could therefore unlock a lot of capital if we resolve disputes faster. We have therefore endeavoured to improve the performance of our dispute resolution system,” said the President
The Head of State said that Kenya has reviewed and enacted laws aimed at improving the regulation of economic and commercial relations.
Speaking at the symposium, Kenya’s Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, Justice Martha Koome, said that the Judiciary is in the process of setting up additional court stations. She noted that this is set to fast-track cases in trial courts to be concluded within three (3) years, while those in the appellate courts to be concluded within one (1) year and for those in the Small Claims Courts to be concluded within 60 days.
“We are banking on the Small Claims Courts to reduce the cost and time for hearing and determination of commercial disputes and consequently support the ease of doing business in Kenya,” said the CJ.
Justice Koome urged the EAC Heads of State Summit to ensure that all countries seeking to be admitted into the EAC have judicial systems that are functional, independent and properly funded, given the role of courts in resolving trade disputes in the region.
In his remarks, EAC Secretary Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki called for the harmonization of judicial systems among Judiciaries in EAC Partner States and application of common standards and best practices across the region.
Dr Mathuki further called on the formation of an avenue through which the Forum of EAC Chief Justices can present proposals to enhance the justice delivery system in the region.
“The forum will advise implementing policies and programmes that foster adherence to the rule of law, good governance and share concerns with the Council and the Summit when needed,” said Dr. Mathuki.
Dr. Mathuki also urged EAC Chief Justices to initiate Chief Justice-Private Sector roundtables in their respective Partner States and at the regional level, adding that such platforms could be powerful tools to create avenues for dialogue that can facilitate an enabling business environment and increase efficiency in resolving commercial disputes.
On his part, the Judge President of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), Justice Nestor Kayobera, noted that Judges from all the Partner States come from different judicial orientations, some from common law systems while others from the civil law systems and called on the harmonization of judicial systems.
“I am looking at a situation where once all judicial education is harmonized, a Judge from Kenya can easily work in Burundi and Judge from Uganda can also work in Tanzania. After all, that’s the meaning of integration where we shall be talking of one country called East African Community,” he noted.
Justice Kayobera said that EACJ had on many occasions delivered landmark Judgements affecting all EAC Partner states, adding that all Partner States were expected to implement the decisions of the Court.
“That would be easier when all laws of EAC, the training curriculums for the regional judiciaries and rules and procedures are harmonized,” said the Judge President.
Noting that many a time the role of EACJ had been misunderstood and therefore not appreciated in the region, Justice Kayobera emphasised that the Court was a creation of the Treaty, to play its role as a vehicle for integration.
“No regional bloc can develop without a strong regional Court to interpret and guide on the laws and rules meant to chart a way forward in regional integration,” he said.
The regional symposium is running for three days and is set to see the adoption of rules of procedure of the forum of EAC Chief Justices.