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CJ Calls for Promotion of Arbitration

Chief Justice Martha Koome has urged all stakeholders involved in arbitration to promote arbitration as a viable alternative to litigation and cooperate with courts in enhancing its quality and credibility.

The CJ said arbitration has been recognized as an efficient, flexible, cost-effective, and party-friendly alternative to traditional litigation, and as a tool for promoting access to justice, economic development, and peaceful resolution of disputes.

Koome noted Kenya is well poised to be the regional hub for arbitration, owing to its strategic location, diverse economy, and its commitment to the rule of law.

“For this vision to materialize, and for parties to have faith in arbitration, it is of paramount importance that arbitral awards are not reduced to mere pieces of paper but remain sacrosanct determinations of disputes that can be practically enforced,” she said.

The CJ said pro-arbitration and pro-enforcement stance not only promotes business confidence but also eases the burden on the country’s court system, thereby freeing the court to deal with other disputes.

She noted by enforcing arbitral awards, the courts have enhanced the confidence and trust of parties, especially foreign investors in the country’s legal system and the business environment thereby fostering economic growth.

The CJ was speaking on Thursday during the Nairobi Arbitration Week themed ‘Gearing up for Changing Times: Exploring Perspectives for Arbitration’ held at a Nairobi hotel, where the participants focused on the role of courts in the enforcement of arbitral awards.

The platform aims to showcase Nairobi as a seat of arbitration in the region and to allow the participants to share their experiences, insights, and perspectives on various aspects of arbitration and enforcement of arbitral awards.

Koome who commended the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration for organizing the event, emphasized the enforcement of arbitral awards, noting that it gives effect to the parties’ rights and obligations as determined by the arbitral tribunal.

“Without effective enforcement, arbitration becomes meaningless, loses credibility and legitimacy, and fails to protect people’s rights and interests as a means of dispute resolution,” she stated.

The CJ further noted that for the arbitration process to be effective, national courts have to adopt a pro-arbitration and pro-enforcement attitude when dealing with applications for recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards both domestic and foreign.

“Laws on their own are insufficient, they need to be backed by courts that are pro-arbitration and pro-enforcement,” she stressed, adding that courts are also required to respect and recognize the autonomy and decisions of the arbitral process.

The CJ said she is delighted that the courts have consistently recognized and enforced arbitral awards, except in rare instances where there were compelling reasons for refusal, recognition, or enforcement.

She at the same time urged the arbitrators participating in the platform to work towards improving the arbitration practices to reduce the possibilities for challenges to enforcement of arbitral awards.

Koome said high-quality arbitral awards from good arbitrators compel court support for their acceptability and enforcement.

By Bernadette Khaduli

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