Understanding how Small Claims Courts work and what they do

On 21st May 2021, Chief Justice Martha Koome took the oath of office as Kenya`s 15th Chief Justice. After 100 days in office, she shared her vision for a Judiciary that is independent, efficient, accessible, responsive to the aspirations of Kenyans and a true guardian of the rule of law. Her vision to the judiciary is anchored on the Mantra of “Social Transformation through Access to Justice (STAJ)”. The vision seeks to widen the doors of justice to all Kenyans and all vulnerable groups.

The introduction of the Small Claims Act 2016 which was later amended by the Small Claims Court (Amendment) Act, 2020, through gazette notice No. 3791 of 2021 led to the establishment of Small Claims Courts, which are lower-level judicial bodies designed to facilitate the speedy resolution of small financial disputes through cost-effective channels while still adhering to the principles of legal fairness and natural justice. The Small Claims Court seeks to enhance access to justice for the poor and marginalized persons in Kenya. The courts are designed to ensure simplicity of procedure, speedy resolution of cases, accessibility and services offered at low cost. It is established to respond to challenges in administration of justice faced by the poor and the marginalized in society.

In a gazette notice dated December 10 of 2021, Chief Justice Martha Koome established Small Claims Courts in Eldoret, Kajiado, Kakamega, Kisumu, Machakos, Meru, Mombasa, Naivasha, Nakuru, Nyeri. According to the Judiciary, as at May 2023, the court had processed 27,000 cases unlocking Kenya Shillings 4.6 billion. It is equally noted that the court has been working on an average of 53 days per case. As at now, in the Coastal region, the courts are in Mombasa and Malindi.

Nature of Claims and Pecuniary Jurisdiction

The Small Claims Court has jurisdiction to determine civil claims related to contracts for the sale and supply of goods or services, money held and received, liability in tort, compensation for personal injuries, and set-off and counterclaim under any contract. The pecuniary jurisdiction is limited to one million shillings, and the Chief Justice may determine other pecuniary jurisdictions.

Exclusion of Jurisdiction

The Court has exclusive jurisdiction over claims once lodged, and proceedings cannot be brought before any other court unless specific conditions are met. Certain types of claims such as: defamation, libel, slander, malicious prosecution, disputes over land titles, and employment and labor relations, cannot be brought before the Small Claims Court.

Procedural Rules and Parties

The Court has control over its procedure, considering the principles of natural justice. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms may be adopted. Parties can lodge claims if they reside or carry on business within the jurisdiction, and the subject matter, contract, cause of action, or defendant is within the jurisdiction.

Representative Claims

Multiple persons can have claims against the same respondent, which may be brought in the name of one person as a representative. The representative is authorized to act on behalf of others, and the Court can order separate hearings if needed.

Procedure Before the Court

The Court has flexibility in its procedures and may adopt alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. It has the power to summon witnesses, make inquiries, and may allow electronic filing. The Court may facilitate the use of various languages and communication formats accessible to persons with disabilities.

Execution of the Decree

The Court can issue various orders, including orders to pay money, restitution of movable property, and recovery of sums related to a contract. The execution process involves attaching movable or immovable property, attaching salary, or suspending execution under certain conditions.

Appeal to the High Court

To initiate an appeal, it is imperative to file a comprehensive memorandum of appeal that distinctly outlines the dissatisfaction with the preceding outcomes. This memorandum should specifically articulate the legal grounds for dissatisfaction, focusing solely on legal aspects rather than presenting evidence.

The Emphasis should be placed on the interpretation and application of the law rather than introducing new evidence during the appeal process. The High Court, in reviewing the appeal, carefully scrutinizes the jurisdiction exercised by the Small Claims Court and examines if any procedural irregularities or unwarranted processes occurred during the initial proceedings.

The final Appeal is at High Court.


Scientist and environmentalist have locked horns with the government on the
destruction effect the road will have on the Abadare ecosystem, arguing that
environment effects outweigh all other economic benefits. Conservation Alliance of Kenya CAK has filed a new petition.

The proposed construction of a road cuts through the Abadare National Park to link Nyandarua and Nyeri County. Conservationists have condemned National
Environmental Management Authority NEMA’s action, saying the Agency tasked to protect the environment is putting a fragile ecosystem at risk. Nema had given the government a green light to proceed with the controversial project.

Proponents of this undertaking say the road has full socio economic benefits, they
argue that road would boost tourism and Agriculture. It will also cut the travel time by more than one hour and 30 minutes over the other available alternatives.

Environmental concerns
The road passes through a protected forest area. Conservationist and scientist have expressed fears that this will have an irreparable damage to the ecosystem. The Area comprises of 300 hectares of delicate ecosystems, including moorland, closed canopy forest, a wildlife habitat designated as a national park, wildlife corridors, wetlands, and other important conservation areas. This loss could disrupt wildlife migration leading to a decline in wildlife populations. The serene canopy and the majestic water tower water fall may become a distant memory as the highway cutting through the forest would disrupt all that.

Also there will be a reduction of water flow to the Sasumua and Ndakaini dams, Athi and Tana River, Ewaso Nyiro, Lorian Swamp, River Malewa, and Lake Naivasha. This would negatively impact key economic activities and livelihoods, causing losses in horticulture, hydro-electricity supply, agriculture together with ecotourism.  Increased illegal activities such as wildlife poaching, logging, waste pollution, and wildlife roadkill during and after construction.

The project would attract human settlement and commercial development that would affect the communities and livelihoods using the Abadare as far as Nairobi. This means that destruction to this ecosystem will affect all of us.

The looming climate change is real and with us. lives and livelihoods have been
devastated. it is high time Human rights organization advanced the climate justice
construct in a manner that relates to the populace.

The Constitution of Kenya empowers persons to seek redress when their right to a healthy and clean environment has been violated or infringed. Article (69) (2) imposes obligations on every person, to cooperate with state organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources. The ecological value of the area is bigger than the road.

Alternative way without pain
The economic and land tribunal is seeking to halt the construction of the highway.
Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK) wants the tribunal to compel the government to configure an alternative route. The Alliance cited severe environment impact the planned Highway will cause and sought cancellation of the NEMA license.

The conservationist has proposed an alternative route that they say balances both the environment and economic benefit of such a project. The proposed route cuts through small towns and villages. This will benefit the communities to transport their farm produce. Residents living along the proposed route say the road would greatly improve their livelihoods. This they argue is better than the one that passes inside the forest as it will bring conflict between human beings and the animals.

Abadare is one of those systems that is connected, building a road through it will
disconnect that ecosystem. It is a water catchment area for the Sasumua and Ndakaini dams, which provide most of the water to the Capital city. The better option is an alternative route that have better economic returns for these connections for the county of Nyeri, Nyandarua, Nakuru and Laikipia that would be economic viable and would also assist the community.

It is worth noting that while we are investing in road infrastructure we have to make sure that we are maximizing the socio-economic benefit while minimizing the negative impact in particular to the environment. We are responsible for a call to climate justice…lest we forget.

Author: James

James Adala is a researcher and a writer working as programs officer with Kituo

Seeking Justice for Garissa University Terror Attack Victims

The tragic events of April 2nd, 2015, when terrorists launched a fatal attack on Garissa University College, remain etched in our collective memory. The heart-wrenching loss of young lives and the devastation inflicted upon families and communities serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for accountability and justice.

At the forefront of this pursuit for justice are Kituo Cha Sheria (Kituo) and the grieving parents of the students who perished in the attack. Kituo and the parents of the victims have courageously embarked on a legal battle, seeking redress for the failures that led to the loss of their loved ones.

The parents turned to Kituo, seeking legal guidance and representation in holding both the University and the State accountable for the failure to ensure the security of their children. Tragically, as a result of this failure, approximately 147 promising young students lost their lives.

Represented by esteemed legal practitioners, including John Khaminwa, Senior Counsel, and Advocate John Mwariri, the petitioners assert that the University and the State neglected to take adequate measures to prevent the attack or mitigate its effects. They point to instances of laxity, complacency, and a delayed response, which exacerbated the severity of the tragedy.

Furthermore, the petitioners highlight disturbing revelations, such as the delayed deployment of the RECCE squad due to the misuse of State resources. They underscore the importance of heeding travel warnings issued by international governments and condemn the state’s dismissal of such warnings as detrimental to the country’s tourism, despite the looming threat.


The grieving parents of the students who perished in the attack together with Kituo advocates pose for a photo outside the Milimani law courts shortly after attending court hearing.

Central to the petitioners’ case is the assertion that there was sufficient intelligence or general information regarding the attack, yet the State deliberately failed to act upon it. This negligence, they argue, resulted in the loss of innocent lives and the violation of constitutional rights.

Before the Court, the petitioners seek justice in the form of a declaration holding the State accountable for its reckless and negligent acts. They demand compensation for the violations of their fundamental right to life and the irreparable harm inflicted upon them.

As the legal proceedings unfold, we stand in solidarity with Kituo Cha Sheria and the bereaved parents, advocating for transparency, accountability, and meaningful reforms to prevent such tragedies from recurring. Together, let us uphold the principles of justice and ensure that the memory of those lost in the Garissa University terror attack inspires positive change.

Kituo’s access to justice project in prison communities in Kenya


Kituo’s Prison paralegal approach was mooted in response to the situation where the state only offers legal representation to people charged with capital offenses, leaving out others who are charged with other offenses. This together with the inability of most people in custody to understand the complexities of the legal system resulted in miscarriages of justice as well as unnecessary congestion in the prisons.

The innovation was triggered by many cases that were being brought to Kituo Cha Sheria about people who were in custody mainly because they lacked knowledge on the legal justice system and thus ended up staying in prison for longer than necessary or even for crimes they never committed. They did not have someone to advise them about their rights and the process in general. Hiring of lawyers was expensive and Kituo Cha Sheria did not have enough personnel hence the need to innovate the prison paralegal project.

Unlike most prison legal aid programmes that seek to sponsor lawyers or attach professional paralegals to the prisons; Kituo’s prison paralegal approach targets the beneficiaries (inmates) themselves to be the drivers and the actors of the initiative. Thus the initiative achieves sustainability with minimal external support.

The prison justice centres project was pioneered at Shimo La Tewa Prison in the year 2009.The project has since then been replicated in 14 Prisons across the country namely; the Shimo La Tewa Women’s Prison, Langata Women’s Prison, Kamiti Maximum Prison, Kisumu’s Kodiaga Main Prison, Meru GK Prison, Kakamega Main Prison, Kisii prison, Edoret prison, Naivasha Prison, Manyani prison, Kitale Prison and Nyeri Maximum Prison.

Paralegals trainings

Inmates and officers from Langata Women's Prison having a group discussion session during the training

In each of these prison justice centres, inmates and prison warders receive continuous training and practical exposure to criminal law and procedure, court systems, prosecution and the role of prosecutors, self-representation in criminal matters and paralegalism. As a result, the trained inmates and warders have offered free legal aid services to other inmates. Thus far, more than 10,000 inmates have been released resulting in decongestion of correctional facilities nationwide. Other benefits accruing from the prison justice centres extend beyond individual cases to include general communal and societal benefits such as speedy processing of cases; fair and impartial trials; and the reduction of prison populations while ensuring that justice is fair and accessible.

Due to re-sentencing, a great number of our prison paralegals have been released. Additionally, the law is dynamic and keeps on changing from time to time. Kituo therefore conducts refresher training to new members to be able to offer legal services and support to the inmates.

The work of prison paralegals

The prison paralegals provide legal awareness sessions to inmates. They offer free lessons on crafting cross-examinations questions, drafting petitions, requests for re-sentencing and appeals among other services.

Through this legal empowerment approach, Kituo has so far trained 450 paralegals across the prisons who have since enabled more than 20,000 inmates to have access to legal services resulting in more than 4,346 inmates securing freedom in the last one year.

At the same time, more than 43,789 inmates have been served through virtual court sessions being facilitated through the installation of internet and computers, while over 451 inmates have had their matters settled out of courts through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.


Access to justice through legal education

Kutuo’s access to justice project in prison communities in Kenya by providing free, legal education to prisoners and prison staff. We equip those from the margins of society to make, shape, and implement the law, empowering them to support and defend one another.


Across Kenya, thousands of inmates cannot afford legal representation and are unable to defend themselves in court. They languish in prisons operating at over 200% capacity, and wait 3–8 years for their cases to reach court. Many are even wrongfully accused or detained. This lack of affordable legal representation creates justice systems that deny a fair hearing and imprison people unnecessarily for years due to unresolved cases.

Inmates and Officers from Kisii Maximum Prison in Kisumu, undergoing training on various aspects of the law


We are empowering prisoners and prison staff in Kenya to become paralegals who can provide legal services to defend themselves and those who have no other means to obtain a fair hearing. Kituo’s Prison Paralegal Training equips participants with the basic legal knowledge to confidently navigate the justice system.

Inmates and Officers from Kodiaga Maximum Prison in Kisumu, undergoing training on various aspects of the law


The Pathfinders, African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice and the Open Government Partnership having a session on the role of community-based paralegals in enhancing access to justice in Africa.[/caption]

The Pathfinders in collaboration with the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice and the Open Government Partnership on 3rd November 2022 hosted a session on the role of community-based paralegals in enhancing access to justice in Africa.
The session focused on the role of community-based paralegals, their impact and the challenges that they experience. The African Centre shared the initiatives it had undertaken in advocating for matters relating to the legal recognition of paralegals and the urgent need to increase their financing. The advocacy initiatives have been regional through the NGO Forum and African Commission’s ordinary sessions and global through the High Level Political Forum and SDG Summit. The Centre has also conducted research to document the work of community based paralegals.
The conversation also tackled the question of financing for community based paralegals. Focus was placed on the Legal Empowerment Fund which has thus far noted the demand for legal empowerment funding.
The Fund also seeks to demystify grant making so as to make it more accessible for grassroots justice defenders. The session involved experience sharing from Government representative from Sierra Leone who detailed the support the state has made towards the Legal Aid Board.
The government in Sierra Leone was also working closely with civil society organizations who worked with community based paralegals. The panel session elicited responses from experts in the field with many agreeing that indeed more recognition and financing ought to be extended to community based paralegals in Africa.

A selection of members from the Pathfinders, African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice and the Open Government Partnership pose for a photo.

The panelists were: Atieno Odhiambo (Director, Legal Empowerment Fund), Shahid Korjie (National Coordinator, A-G’s office Sierra Leone) and Annette Mbogoh (African Centre of Excellence and Director, Kituo cha Sheria). The session was moderated by Eleanor Thompson, Namati Sierra Leone.


Kituo cha Sheria was honoured to be the 2nd runner-up of the 6th edition of the Nairobi Legal Awards, Civil Society (justice and legal affairs) Organization of the year 2023, held at Safari Park Hotel on 3rd November 2023.

In the other category, Kituo’s Executive Director  Dr. Annette Mbogoh was also honoured to be the 1st  runners up, Civil Society Lawyer of the year.

The Nairobi Legal Awards (NLA) assessment is based on the aspects of best practice in legal practice and management. The award is conferred upon the civil society Organization that demonstrates outstanding levels of excellence in legal service delivery.

Kituo’s executive director, Dr. Annette Mbogoh address the media shortly after receiving her award.

KITUO was recognized for having greatly impacted the lives of indigent and marginalized communities through our human rights programmes and interventions for 50 Years since its establishment. Some of these include Kituo’s involvement in strategic litigation cases that have contributed towards jurisprudential development of human rights including the prisoners’ right to vote in elections, the protection of refugees rights, safeguarding of housing rights of dwellers of informal settlements, the enactment of law on enforced disappearance, police brutality, 1998 US Embassy bombing, Marsabit toxic waste and access to digitized justice for self-representing indigent litigants.

Kituo’s team pause for a photo after the award ceremony

KITUO was also considered for demonstrating innovation in our programs, allowing the organization to remain relevant within the context of a dynamic environment. KITUO has been at the forefront in embracing the use of ICT in legal empowerment programmes. KITUO has advocated for law reform nationally, regionally, and globally. The enactment of laws and policies such as the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Legal Aid Act 2016, the Land Act 2012, the National Peace Policy among others were spearheaded by KITUO alongside other collaborative partners. In addition, KITUO has jointly with other organizations submitted policy statements on human rights to the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, Universal Periodic Review and the Kenyan Parliament.

Due to our extensive experience in legal empowerment and human rights work, KITUO has been recognized as a leading actor and trailblazer regionally and globally. In Africa, KITUO serves as a founding member of the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice, which is the only Pan-African organization promoting justice in the continent. Globally, KITUO sits in the Network Advisory Committee of the Global Legal Empowerment Network representing the East Africa region. KITUO coordinates learning, community building, and advocacy of Legal Empowerment Network members in East and Southern Africa. In addition, KITUO is the co-chair of the Access to Justice Cluster under the global Open Government Partnerships platform. Jointly with other justice organizations, KITUO has been co-implementing the access to justice commitment in Kenya’s fourth National Action Plan.

KITUO is honoured to have our efforts in promoting access to justice for the poor and marginalized recognized by the Law Society of Kenya.





On March 22, 2023, community-based paralegals and representatives from civil society and development organizations convened at the University of Nairobi Faculty of Law to hear directly from community paralegals, His Excellency the Canadian High Commissioner Mr. Christopher Thornley, the Honorable Chief Justice of Kenya Martha Koome (through a representative), the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Prof. Margaret Sattherthwaite, Namati, and Canada’s International Development Research Centre about the importance of strengthening grassroots justice in Kenya and abroad.



Contact Info: Head Office - Nairobi

Location: Ole Odume Rd, Off Argwings Kodhek Rd.
Postal Add.: P.O. Box 7483-00300 Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel: 3874191, 3874220, 3876290,
Fax: 3876295
Mobile: +254 734 874 221, +254 727 773 991

Email: info(at)kituochasheria.or.ke
Website: www.kituochasheria.or.ke


Subscribe to receive inspiration, ideas, and news in your inbox.

Copyright © 2023 – Kituo Cha Sheria. All Rights Reserved. Website by: RENCE INTERACTIVE