Depending on the assets sought, there are various registers that contain publicly available information. For instance, the land registry maintains a database of immovable property and the National Transport and Safety Authority maintains a database of motor vehicle ownership, both of which are publicly available.
Upon meeting certain requirements, a party is allowed to seek the court’s assistance to obtain information about the assets that the other party holds – ie, through tracing, asset disclosure and freezing orders. In so doing, the courts rely on the rules of civil procedure relating to the attachment of assets prior to judgment and on the jurisprudence of English courts and the opinions of English writers on the subject. For example, the courts have held (F. Tuiyott J. in Dubai Bank Kenya Ltd (in Liquidation) v Darasa Investments Ltd  eKLR, for instance) that the claimant must demonstrate that:
The court can also order disclosure of documents or the administration of requests for further information to assist the claimant in ascertaining the location of the defendant’s assets.
A judgment can be either interlocutory or final. An interlocutory judgment is one that is given at an intermediate stage of the proceedings, and its effect is to secure a party’s rights pending the eventual outcome. On the other hand, the effect of a final judgment will be to conclusively decide the party’s rights or obligations when given.
It is not always necessary for a final judgment to be pronounced at the end of a trial. For example, a plaintiff is entitled to apply for judgment where the defendant has not entered an appearance in the case within the required period or where the defendant has entered an appearance but has not filed a defence within the required period. Also, a plaintiff is entitled to apply for summary judgment where, for instance, they have a liquidated claim and the defendant has appeared but not filed a defence. However, a defendant is allowed to apply for a case to be dismissed where the plaintiff has not taken any step towards its prosecution for at least one year.
In Kenya, the courts can issue various types of reliefs, including:
Several options are available to a successful party enforcing a decree arising from a judgment.
Sale of Immovable and Movable Property
Where the decree is for the payment of money, the rules of civil procedure provide for the attachment and sale of immovable and movable property belonging to the judgment debtor. The rules also allow for the attachment of negotiable instruments and shares in a corporation.
The process will typically involve an auctioneer, who will begin the process by preparing and filing an application for the attachment of the property in question, in a prescribed format. When the court endorses the application, the auctioneer will prepare a proclamation of the goods to be attached, which will be served upon the judgment debtor.
The auctioneer will also prepare and serve a notification of sale, allowing the judgment debtor a period, depending on the goods to be sold, in which to pay the sums owed, failing which the goods will be moved to the auctioneer’s premises in preparation for sale. Thereafter, the auctioneer will arrange for the advertisement and subsequent sale of the property.
Apart from the above, a judgment creditor has the option of attaching debts that are owed to the judgment debtor, including sums that are held in a bank account, through garnishee proceedings. The judgment creditor will be required to apply to the court, identifying the debt that is sought to be attached in the application, and serve the application on the person who owes the judgment debtor. Should that person confirm that they hold monies owed to the judgment debtor, the court will order that such sums be paid to the judgment creditor.
Jail and Contempt of Court
As a last resort, where the decree is for the payment of money but the judgment debtor is recalcitrant in settling it, the judgment creditor is allowed to apply for their committal to civil jail. However, such an application may not be allowed where the judgment debtor’s failure to pay is due to an inability to do so – for instance, due to a lack of resources.
Finally, contempt of court proceedings are also available where the judgment is not for the payment of money – for instance, if the relief given is injunctive in nature.
The process of enforcing judgments is typically done through an auctioneer and will vary depending on the mode. For instance, the auctioneer will serve a proclamation of attachment/repossession/distraint of movable property, requiring the judgment debtor to pay any sums due within seven days, failing which the goods that have been proclaimed will be moved to the auctioneer's premises. The auctioneer will then arrange for the advertisement of the goods for sale within seven days from their removal to their premises and arrange for their sale between seven and 14 days after their first advertisement. The auctioneer’s costs are regulated and will depend on the value of the property attached or repossessed.
The length of time taken will also be affected if the process of enforcement is disputed, since such a dispute will have to be determined by a judicial officer, thereby lengthening the enforcement process.
Apart from an uncontested process of attachment/repossession/distraint of movable property, which can be concluded in less than a month, enforcement through garnishee proceedings is also efficient where the garnishee confirms that they hold funds that are due to the judgment debtor. In such a case, the courts will be quick to issue the garnishee order.
Typically, the procedures for determining a defendant’s assets are available before judgment is given; whether or not such procedures are still available post-judgment is open to debate. The normal practice is for the decree holder to conduct an investigation of their own. Many auctioneers have the necessary capability.
A defendant may challenge the enforcement of a judgment by attacking the enforcement process itself or, where they seek to set it aside, by seeking a review or appealing the judgment from which it arises.
On the one hand, they could challenge the enforcement process itself due to procedural lapses, such as where an auctioneer has not followed the statutory procedure or has attached property that is statutorily excluded from attachment. Examples of the latter are tools of the trade, books of accounts, necessary wearing apparel, cooking vessels, beds and bedding and the property of some institutions that is protected from execution proceedings by statute.
On the other hand, a defendant may challenge enforcement where they seek to set aside the judgment from which it arises – for instance, where they argue that the judgment was irregularly entered since they were not served with the pleadings, or where they seek to review or appeal the judgment. In the latter instances, the defendant would seek to stay the enforcement process until the review or appeal is concluded.
A domestic judgment remains enforceable until it is set aside, whether by the court that issued it or on appeal.
There is no central register of all domestic judgments. However, selected judgments of the High Court, the Environment and Land Court, the Employment and Labour Relations Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are reported online and in hard copy by the National Council on Law Reporting. Also, some tribunals, such as the National Environment Tribunal, maintain a database of their decisions. This reporting is maintained regardless of whether or not a defendant has satisfied what they were ordered to do.
The enforcement of foreign judgments is governed primarily by the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act (the Act), which provides for the enforcement of foreign judgments of superior or subordinate courts of particular countries that have reciprocal provisions in their laws relating to the enforcement of the judgments of Kenya’s superior courts. The assessment of whether a country qualifies as a reciprocating country, and its designation under the Act as such, is done by executive order. There are currently eight reciprocating countries:
However, if the foreign judgment is not covered under the Act, the common law principles on the enforcement of foreign judgments have been incorporated into Kenyan jurisprudence – see 3.4 Process of Enforcing Foreign Judgments.
The approach to the enforcement of foreign judgments depends on whether or not the judgment originated from a designated court of a reciprocating country. In the former case, the process entails applying to the High Court for its registration without the necessity of having to go through a trial. However, in the latter case, the jurisprudence of the Kenyan Court of Appeal provides that the foreign judgment would be enforceable as a claim under the common law for enforcement of a foreign judgment. See 3.4 Process of Enforcing Foreign Judgments.
Certain categories of foreign judgments are not enforceable, namely where the judgment:
Foreign Judgments from Reciprocating Countries
If the foreign judgment originated from a designated court of a reciprocating country, the judgment creditor is required to make an application to the High Court within six years of the date of the judgment for it to be registered. The application may be made ex parte where it can be shown that the judgment debtor was personally aware of or participated in the original case and the avenue of appeal is unavailable. The court may allow the application, in which case notice of the registration of the judgment should be served on the judgment debtor.
However, rather than allow the application, the court may direct that the summons be issued to the judgment debtor, in which case the judgment debtor will be allowed to participate in the hearing of that application. The application should be accompanied by several documents, including the following:
Foreign Judgments from Non-reciprocating Countries
If the foreign judgment does not originate from a designated country of a reciprocating country, the binding jurisprudence of the Kenyan Court of Appeal (for instance, in Jayesh Hasmukh Shah v Navin Haria & Another  eKLR) provides that the foreign judgment would be enforceable as a claim in common law for the enforcement of a foreign judgment. The judgment creditor is required to file a plaint at the High Court setting out the nature of the claim, accompanied by a verifying affidavit, a list of witnesses, witness statements and a bundle of documents including a certified copy of the foreign judgment. It is then open to the judgment debtor to challenge the validity of the foreign judgment in the context of a trial on the basis that it was not conclusive within the meaning of the Civil Procedure Act.
In the context of the Civil Procedure Act, a foreign judgment is not conclusive where:
The costs and time taken to enforce a foreign judgment depend on whether or not it originated from a designated court of a reciprocating country. Other deciding factors include:
In comparison, it takes a shorter time and is less costly to enforce a foreign judgment that originates from a designated court of a reciprocating country, since the proceedings do not involve a trial. To enforce such a judgment would take roughly the same amount of time as one would expect the enforcement of a domestic judgment to take.
A judgment debtor is entitled to apply to the High Court to set aside a registered judgment on several grounds, including the following:
Under the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Rules, the application should be made within 14 days of the judgment debtor being served a notice of registration of judgment, where the application to recognise it was made ex parte. In all other cases, the application should be made within 14 days from the date of registration of the judgment. The courts retain the discretion to extend this time period.
The High Court of Kenya considered this issue, among others, in the case of East African Development Bank v Dari Limited & 5 others  eKLR, finding that the time period is not mandatory. Also, a judgment debtor is allowed to file the application if it becomes aware of the registration of the judgment through means other than being served with the notice of registration of judgment. At the time of writing, the judgment debtor is pursuing an appeal against this decision, which is pending before the Court of Appeal.
The High Court exercises a supervisory role over arbitration proceedings.
Under Kenyan law, the enforcement of an arbitral award, including a challenge to it, is made through the High Court by virtue of the provisions of the Arbitration Act. The Supreme Court of Kenya has settled the debate over whether an appeal lies to the Court of Appeal from a decision of the High Court on an application to set aside an arbitral award. The Court of Appeal had previously adopted conflicting positions on the issue in different cases: in some cases, it had held that the decision of the High Court is final and therefore an appeal does not lie from it, while in other cases it had held that an appeal does lie from the High Court’s decision.
Nyutu Agrovet Limited v Airtel Networks Kenya Limited
In Nyutu Agrovet Limited v Airtel Networks Kenya Limited; Chartered Institute of Arbitrators-Kenya Branch (Interested Party)  eKLR, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to consider this issue. The court acknowledged that the Arbitration Act was silent on it and resorted to a comparative analysis of different jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore.
In a 4-1 judgment, the court decided in favour of a circumscribed right of appeal from the decision of the High Court to the Court of Appeal. The court held that the only instance where an appeal may lie from a decision of the High Court on an application to set aside an arbitral award is if the High Court stepped outside the grounds upon which such an application should be decided. The result of this should be that the decision is so grave and manifestly wrong that it completely closed the door of justice to either of the parties.
The court added that this jurisdiction should be sparingly exercised, and that the Court of Appeal should assume jurisdiction in only the clearest of cases. In making these findings, the court strove to balance the principle of the finality of arbitral proceedings and the need to ensure that, in its words, an unfair determination by the High Court is not immune from appellate review.
On the same day that the judgment in this case was delivered, the Supreme Court delivered another judgment on the same subject matter and with similar reasoning in Synergy Industrial Credit Limited v Cape Holdings Limited  eKLR.
Therefore, these two judgments are considered to have settled the law on appeals to the Court of Appeal from decisions of the High Court on an application to set aside an arbitral award. This position was confirmed in the more recent Supreme Court judgment in Geo Chem Middle East v Kenya Bureau of Standards  eKLR. In this case, the Supreme Court also resolved the issue of whether a further appeal lies to it from a consequential judgment of the Court of Appeal if the latter assumes jurisdiction according to the principles in the Nyutu and Synergy decisions. The Supreme Court held that, in conformity with the principle of the need for expedition in arbitration matters, no further appeal should ordinarily lie from such a judgment of the Court of Appeal. An application to review that decision was recently declined by the Supreme Court in Kenya Bureau of Standards v Geo Chem Middle East  eKLR.
The legal regime that applies to the enforcement of a domestic arbitral award is different to that which applies to an international arbitration award. In the case of a domestic award, the Arbitration Act provides that it will be recognised and enforced according to the Act’s provisions. In the case of an international award, it will be recognised and enforced according to the provisions of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which was acceded to by Kenya with a reciprocity reservation, or any other convention to which Kenya is a signatory and which relates to arbitral awards.
There are no categories of arbitral awards that will not be enforced as a matter of general principle – for instance, due to the subject matter of the award. However, there are grounds to challenge the enforcement of arbitral awards based on particular circumstances; see 4.6 Challenging Enforcement of Arbitral Awards.
Enforcing Arbitral Awards
The first step in enforcing an arbitral award is to file the award with the High Court. The party who seeks to enforce it must provide the original arbitral award or a certified copy of it and the original arbitration agreement or a certified copy of it. Where the award or agreement is not in English, a certified translation into the English language must be provided.
Notice of the filing of the award must also be given to all parties, giving the date of filing, the cause number and the registry in which it has been filed. An affidavit of service must also be filed. Thereafter, the party seeking to enforce the award will apply to the court for leave to enforce the award as a decree.
Ex Parte Summons
The arbitration rules provide that if an application to set aside the award has not been made, the party filing the award may apply ex parte by summons for leave to enforce the award as a decree of the court. An application to set aside the award must be made within three months of the applicant receiving the arbitral award.
However, it is noteworthy that the same rules also provide that all applications subsequent to the filing of an award should be served on all parties at least seven days before the hearing date. Consequently, the party against whom recognition and enforcement are sought will have an opportunity to challenge on the grounds elaborated on in 4.6 Challenging Enforcement of Arbitral Awards.
If there are pre-existing proceedings before the High Court that relate to the arbitration (eg, where a party approached the court to appoint an arbitrator), the award should be filed within the same cause; otherwise, it shall be given its own cause number in the register.
The court fee for filing an award is KES10,000, although this does not include the fees for the application for its enforcement and any further documents that may be filed in litigating challenges to enforcement. Where the parties are represented by advocates, their costs are regulated. The time it takes to enforce an arbitral award depends on whether the proceedings on enforcement are disputed and the schedule of the court that is entertaining the proceedings.
The enforcement of an award may be refused on several grounds, including the following, regardless of the state in which it was made:
Additionally, under the Limitation of Actions Act, an action to enforce an award may not be brought after six years.