Advocates of the High Court of Kenya/ judiciary.go.ke
NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 1- Advocates based in Rwanda and Burundi may start practicing in Kenya if proposed changes to the Advocates Act are implemented.
The proposed amendments, which are in line with the spirit of the East African Community (EAC), are aimed at providing a level playing field for advocates in Rwanda and Burundi as their counterparts in Uganda and Tanzania.
The Bill proposes to include an advocate of the High Court of Rwanda and an advocate of the High Court of Burundi as being eligible for admission as an advocate in Kenya,” the Bill reads in its memorandum.
Rwandan and Burundian advocates were barred from practising in Kenya back in 2019, a move that Members of Parliament say contravenes the EAC’s aim of unifying member states.
The EAC seeks to achieve prosperity, competitiveness, security, stability and political unification in East Africa. Member states include Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Under the proposed amendments, Section 12 of the Advocates Act which only allows Ugandan and Tanzanian lawyers to practice in Kenya will now include Rwandan and Burundian lawyers.
The Judiciary and Council for Legal Education (CLE) told MPs there is a need to amend the Legal Education Act and the Kenya School of Law Act as well as clarify eligibility requirements for non-Kenyans who practice law in the EAC or the Commonwealth and beyond before seeking admission to practice law in Kenya.
Kenyan lawyers, currently practising advocates in Rwanda had petitioned MPs to fast-track the inclusion of Rwanda and Burundi in the Advocates Act to enable the Chief Justice to swear and enrol practitioners from the two countries to practice in Kenya.
This is the second attempt by MPs to open doors for lawyers from Rwanda and Burundi, coming nearly two years after the Court of Appeal struck out similar changes, locking out the two countries.
Parliament first opened the doors for lawyers from Rwanda and Burundi to practice in Kenya through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act 2012, amended Section 12 and 13 of the Advocates Act but the Court of Appeal struck out the changes.
The Law Society of Kenya had opposed MPs’ move and sued the Attorney-General, arguing the amendment that opened up trade in legal services for non-Kenyans without reciprocal access for Kenyan advocates was a violation of Parliament’s legislative powers.
The proposed changes come barely a month after the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee blocked Rwandan and Burundian lawyers from practising in Kenya until local advocates are allowed to work in the two countries on a reciprocal basis.