An effective justice system is one in which justice is dispensed quickly and in a manner which is seen by all to be fair. Unfortunately no justice system every fully meets these criteria. In most countries the judicial system is underfunded, and as a result disputes take longer than they should, and the party which is ready and able to spend most on litigation often has a substantial disadvantage, while poorer parties often have no effective access to justice.
Kenya’s judiciary is attempting to modernise and to provide a significantly higher level of justice, but there are substantial challenges ahead. The commercial courts have big backlogs, and for some companies this means that the cost of doing business in Kenya is too high to be worthwhile. The East African quotes the case of Renaissance Capital and its investment in Tatu City, which has allegedly been held to ransom by distrust, scheming and intrigue, without being able to obtain expeditious help from the courts.
The average length of time for resolving a commercial dispute in Kenya is 465 days, according to the Doing Business in the East African Community Report 2012. This is more than twice as long as Rwanda’s 230 day average. Last week a vetting committee found that two judges were unfit to hold judicial office because of extensive delays in reaching their decisions. Almost half of the value of an average claim is spent on legal costs.