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.

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


Kituo Cha Sheria (Legal Advice Centre) on Friday, October 27, 2023 marked its golden jubilee anniversary, in a colourful event that brought together both founder members, present members, alumni, stakeholders and development partners to reflect on Kituo’s milestone for the last 50 years.

Kituo Golden Jubilee event was marred with storytelling and inspirational speeches with individual speakers sharing the lessons, successes and challenges that the Legal Advice Centre has experienced while promoting legal empowerment and access to justice to the indigent communities.

Kituo Cha Sheria Executive Director Dr. Annette Mbogoh leads in cutting a cake as they celebrate the centre’s 50th Anniversary at the Head Office at Ole Dume Road, Nairobi on October 27, 2023

The Honorable Chief Justice Martha K. Koome, in remarks delivered by Justice Wendy Micheni lauded Kituo Cha Sheria for being a movement in protecting Human Rights laws that have brought tremendous changes in the legal sector. “The impact of KITUO’s work for the last 5decades shows that it’s been more than just an institution. It has been a movement that has challenged conventions, bridged gaps and provided a voice for the voiceless.” Said Hon. Wendy.

The Honorable Chief Justice Martha K. Koome acknowledged that Kituo’s landmark cases have shaped the jurisprudence of law in Kenya, such as those relating to the rights to housing, refugee rights, and prisoners’ rights, among others.  “The tireless dedication of KITUO over the years has not just been representing those who could not afford legal representation, it has been about changing narratives, breaking the chains of systematic oppression and continually reminding us of the sanity of human rights” read part of CJ’s speech.

Chief Magistrate Hon. Wendy Micheni delivering the congratulations sent by CJ Martha Koome.

Speaking of Kituo’s partneshipng with the Judiciary, Hon. Wendy stated that Kituo has been a key partner and ally of the judiciary in advancing access to justice for all Kenyans. She added that Kituo has supported the judiciary in championing for the adoption of the Alternative Justice System, collaborated with the judiciary in conducting public awareness campaigns, training judicial officers and staff, developing manuals, guidelines on various aspects of the law.

The office of the Attorney General celebrated Kituo for the legal empowerment work it is doing with both the community, refugees and the prisons and opening up justice centres where people are armed with legal knowledge to help them in their daily lives.

The Law Society of Kenya President Eric Theuri celebrated Kituo for being a valued member in the justice sector that stands for a noble cause and urged the advocates to volunteer their services especially by providing probono services to the poor and marginalized. “In my younger life, I had the privilege of offering pro bono services under Kituo Cha Sheria. I feel like a member of the family. I’m proud of the work Kituo has done over the years and the footprints it has left in the quest to ensure access to justice for the vulnerable in the society. There is no any greater reward for any advocate than to be able to be of service to humanity where payment is gratitude and eternal gratitude” said Eric Theuri.

LSK President Eric Theuri giving his remarks during the Golden Jubilee celebration at Ole Dume Road on October 27, 2023

Theuri’s sentiments were echoed by senior council John Khaminwa who urged stakeholders to help advance Kituo’s goal. “We leave in a world where access to justice is still hampered by poverty, ignorance, corruption, discrimination, violence impunity and other social ills. We therefore need stakeholders to support Kituo Cha Sheria to continue providing legal aid and education to those who cannot afford it” Said senior council John Khaminwa

Senior council John Khaminwa giving his remarks during Kituo Cha Sheria’s 50th Anniversary at Ole Dume Road, Nairobi.Khaminwa added, “We leave in a time when democracy is still threatened by authoritarianism, populism, and other forces that undermine the rule of law. We need Kituo to continue its courageous work of challenging injustice and impunities through public interest litigation” senior council John Khaminwa said.

Dr. Annette Mbogoh giving her remarks during Kituo Cha Sheria’s 50th Anniversary

Kituo’s Executive Director, Dr. Annette Mbogoh expressed confidence and hope that Kituo will stand firm for the next 50 years and outlined the strategies Kituo intends to adopt in the next five to ten years.

These include championing for Climate Justice, land, labour and housing, organizational capacity building which she said will focus on transforming the center and strengthening its communication.

Kituo’s BOD chairperson Mr. Justus Munyithya added that Kituo also plans to focus on the use of innovation and technology to promote justice.

The African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice through their chairperson Clifford W. Msiska acknowledged Kituo was one of the founder members of the network and the contributions Kituo has made in promoting access to justice.

Two of our founder members present Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa and Rtd. Judge J. Vitalis O. Juma shared the vision they had and the rich history of the legal advice centre and their experience during the early stages of Kituo’s formation, touching on the challenges and how they overcame them. Tributes of the late founder members were read and a moment of silence observed in their honor.

Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa giving her key note address.

We at Kituo Cha Sheria are delighted and note with a lot of appreciation that Kituo Golden Jubilee could not have been possible without the support of all our stakeholders including our development partners, other civil society organizations and state actors.

We also recognize all our beneficiaries for trusting us and giving us the opportunity to serve and work with them in ensuring equality, transparency, accountability, promotion of human rights and access to justice in Kenya and beyond.


The PSK held its award ceremony after the Summit one 15th December 2022. One of the objectives of the summit was to award paralegals who have fiercely promoted access to Justice.
The first-place winner of the community award service award was Michael Asao.
The second-place winner for the best prison justice men was Kamiti Maximum Prison and the third-best winner for the best overall community paralegal was Jamia Abdulrahim.

Jamia Abdulrahim being awarded as the best overal community Paralegal of the year
  • Best Overall Community Paralegal – Jamia Abdulrahim.
  • Best Community Paralegal – Ibrahim Ogeto.
  • Best Prison Paralegal – Maurice Bora.
  • Best Volunteer Advocate of The year – Anthony Mulekyo.
  • 1St Runners Up Volunteer Advocate of The year – Dan Mulinga Mbaluka.
  • 2nd Runners Up Volunteer Advocate of The year – Huldah Ochieng.
  • Post Humus Award of the year Volunteer Advocate of The year – Christine Mwikali Kipsang.
  • Most Promising Young Volunteer Advocate of The year – Maureen Kemunto.
  • Best Social Justice Centre (Community) – Nyando Social Justice Center.
  • Best Prison Justice Centre Men – Kamiti Maximum Prison.
  • Community Service Award – Michael Asao.
  • Best prison paralegal – Mathews Okweso

It was a great pleasure and an honor to have Carolyne Abong Senior Policy Advisor – Political Affairs, Human Rights, Rule of Law at Embassy of the Netherlands in Kenya attends the Summit. Kituo appreciate our development partner Embassy of the Netherlands in Kenya for their relentless support that has substantially contributed towards achievement of our strategy of strengthening access to justice for the poor and marginalized and promoting human rights.


The 2nd Paralegal Society of Kenya (PSK) summit took place from 14th to 15th December 2022 at the Tamarind tree hotel, Nairobi. The paralegal summit seeks to bring together paralegals from all parts of Kenya and East Africa to see exchange of best practices, challenges as well as possible avenues of collaboration. The 2022 theme was ‘Towards a robust and vibrant paralegal movement’.
The objectives of the summit included mobilizing paralegals to register as Paralegals Society of Kenya members, building a capacity of Paralegals so as to establish and strengthen the county fora and providing a platform for engagement between paralegals and duty-bearers in the justice sector as well as providing a platform for experience sharing among the paralegals.
Mary Airo, the National Coordinator Paralegal Society of Kenya In her remarks, appreciated the passionate work done by paralegals noting that they wholeheartedly give legal services to the communities to ensure that the poor and vulnerable access justice.

Paralegals and stakeholders during the 2nd PSK Summit held at Tamarind Tree Hotel in Nairobi Kenya.

UNDP’s Zainab pointed out that the realization of human rights and access to justice are crucial aspects of the quest for sustainable development. She also noted that without strong guarantees for access to justice particularly for the poor and vulnerable, choice and opportunity to access resources and participate in governance would remain at risk.

Justus Munyithya, the Chair of the Board of Directors, Kituo Cha Sheria in his remarks, stated that one of the critical goals of sustainable development is to ensure that no one is left behind.

“Article 48 of the constitution of Kenya, guarantees every Kenyan the right to access justice, which is yet to be fully realized due to the state’s political nature.” Said Mr. Munyithya.

Mr. Munyithya added that this right still remains out of reach for many poor and marginalized groups due to barriers to access to justice which are numerous and include the lack of political will to implement laws and policies that promote access to justice, high costs associated with the formal justice system, advocates fees, filing fees and general inadequacy of awareness of human rights.


Evans Muswahili Ladema, Kituo’s paralegal from Vihiga Community Justice Centre pose for
a photo at the UN Climate Change Conference COP27

Community paralegals can come in to address the environment and Climate In Justices faced by communities. As reservoirs of information, community paralegals can create awareness at the community level on issues of climate change and make communities aware of the need to tackle Climate Change. Paralegals can carry out advocacy work on climate change thus help organize communities to demand change.
Evans Muswahili Ladema, Kituo’s paralegal from Vihiga Community Justice Centre who is so passionate about the environment and Climate Justice participated at the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 that started on 6th and stretched through to 18th of November in Egypt, courtesy of generous funding from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and UN Climate Change accreditation facilitated by Kituo Cha Sheria and Namati Kenya.

COP27 presents an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to find concrete solutions to the global climate emergency, including mitigation, adaptation and resilience, loss and damage, and climate finance.
Evans spoke on behalf of the poor and marginalized in Kenya seeking climate justice. His presentation touched on three key issues; relationships between food systems and climate change, scaling regenerative food systems as a climate solution, and gender issues in food systems and climate action. He looks forward to having the ambitious goals and commitments set by UN member states in reducing global warming put into practical action.


Members of the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice (ACE-AJ) together with the regional and international partners in community justice

Members of the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice (ACE-AJ) together with the regional and international partners in community justice on 19th October 2022 convened for a 2-day participatory meeting in Nairobi to discuss and draft an action plan in preparation for the High-Level Political Forum 2023 (HLPF) side event.
The action plan will clarify the necessary resources, formulate a timeline, and detail the necessary tasks to be completed to ensure a successful event. A key focus for HLPF2023 will be on financing. A possible topic for consideration is the ‘Challenges and opportunities around financing community-based justice.
This Side-event of the HLPF, held outside the official programme provides a great opportunity to discuss the theme and SDGs under review at the HLPF2023, identify new and emerging issues, and help spread greater awareness of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
While African governments have made commitments under goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063/2 of the African Union to ensure access to justice for all, in reality, a significant number of people from the continent lack access to justice.
Building momentum towards key 2023 “moments” will to help hold governments accountable to SDG16+, and to pressure them to make more concrete commitments to action by showcasing civil society action around SDG16+ through “Storytelling” efforts, to highlight the leading role that civil society is playing to advancing SDG16+

Members of the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice (ACE-AJ) together with the regional and international partners in community justice conducting a group discussion

ACE-AJ will continue to mobilize support across civil society for SDG16+ action and commitments around key 2023 “moments”, including the 2023 SDGs Summit and “Summit for the Future”. Additionally, ACE-AJ will mobilize resources to support grassroots actions around SDG16+ at the national and local levels, to build out more localized movements led by key civil society partners.


Group photo of the takeholders including government officials, civil society and refugee led organizations.

Kituo cha Sheria, through the Forced Migration Programme conducted a 2-day capacity building for Refugee Led organizations (RLOs) at Waridi Paradise Hotel in Nairobi. The training that took place on 21st and 22nd Nov. 2022 covered basics in Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), the Refugee Act 2021, Durable solutions as provided for in the Act in relation to RLOs operations, Financial management, Advocacy strategies and Principles of corporate governance.

Through the support of Open Society Foundations Kituo continues to build the Capacity of the refugee-led organizations to enhance meaningful participation, collaboration and protection of refugee rights.

High Court Judge, John Chigiti facilitating a session on Intersex refugee children during our engagement meeting with stakeholders including government officials, civil society and refugee led organizations.

All over the world, people are fleeing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Intersex refugee children face discrimination, violence and exclusion. It’s our duty as human rights defenders to create awareness on Intersex refugee children’s rights.

Conversations inform policy and reminds the state that they have an obligation to enforce positive rights. All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are.


Paralegals of refugee community and refugee led organizations pose for a photo with their certificates upon successful completion of the training

Kituo Cha Sheria through the Forced Migration Programme conducted a 5-day training for paralegals of refugee community and refugee led organizations at Waridi Hotel Nairobi. The training that took place from 26th October to 1st November 2022 aimed at empowering refugee led organisations and the refugees in particular on approach to justice for the vulnerable in the refugee community and promoting intercultural diversity for peaceful engagement in conflict situations among the refugee and host community.
The paralegals among the refugee community and refugee led organizations will also be sensitized on mental health and psychosocial support into peace-building efforts and building cohesion.
Upon successful completion of the training, Kituo officially launched a justice centre in Nairobi under the Youth Voices Community as a way to decentralize legal empowerment and peace building initiatives to the refugee communities.
Kituo’s Executive Director Dr. Annette Mbogoh who officiated the opening of the justice centre and graduation ceremony welcomed this timely partnership. She stated that Kituo has been receiving overwhelming cases from the refugee community on police harassment, general lack of knowledge of refugee issues, negative and discriminatory attitudes from local populations and barriers to foreign qualifications recognition.

Paralegals from the Youth Voices Community receiving administrative support materials including laptop and printer from Dr. Annette Mbogoh, Kituo’s Executive Director.

She encouraged the refugee paralegals to use the knowledge gained to empower their fellow refugees and asylum seekers by providing guidance on their rights and obligations as well as information regarding their asylum application and their refugee status, offering advice on their cases, making referrals and following up on cases.
Kituo handed over administrative support material including a laptop, Printer and tonners to Youth Voices Community (YVC) Refugees Justice Centre to facilitate the processing of legal documents at the centre. All these were made possible through the support of Open Society Foundations and Ziviler Friedensdienst / GIZ


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


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