LEGAL UPDATE ON THE ADVOCATES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021.
Previous amendments to Sections 12 and 13 of the Advocates Act, Cap. 16 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) which allowed citizens of Rwanda and Burundi to be eligible for admission as advocates in Kenya were struck out by the Court of Appeal through a judgment delivered on 27th September, 2019 in the case Law Society of Kenya v Attorney General & 2 others  eKLR. The Court of Appeal cited a lack of public participation contrary to Article 10(2) as read with Article 118 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 before the enactment of the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2012 by Parliament.
Currently, only citizens from Uganda and Tanzania are eligible for admission as advocates in Kenya as provided by Sections 12 and 13 of the Act.
The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (hereinafter referred to as “the Bill”) was sponsored by the Chairperson of the Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, and was tabled before the National Assembly on 10th November, 2021 for its first reading.
The main objective of the Bill is to amend Sections 12 and 13 of the Act to allow the citizens of Burundi and Rwanda to be eligible for admission as advocates in Kenya, subject to them having the relevant professional academic qualifications. This is in light of the fact that these countries are members of the East African Community and should be accorded equal treatment as Uganda and Tanzania. The Bill also seeks to recognize the professional and academic qualifications of persons who have been admitted as advocates of the High Court of Rwanda and Burundi and such persons are eligible to be admitted as advocates of the High Court of Kenya.
Clause 2 of the Bill proposes to amend Section 12 of the Act to include citizens of Rwanda and Burundi as being eligible for admission as an advocate in Kenya subject to them having the requisite professional and academic qualifications.
Clause 3 of 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, under Section 13 (d) of the Act.
The Clerk of the National Assembly invited members of the public and relevant stakeholders to engage in public participation in compliance with Article 118 (1) (b) of the Constitution and Standing Order 127(3) of the National Assembly Standing Orders. The deadline for submission of memoranda/comments on the Bill was 23rd November 2021.
Notably, the bill is already being challenged by Kenyan Members of Parliament (MPs) who have vowed to block Rwanda and Burundi lawyers from practising in Kenya, until Kenyan advocates are allowed to work in the two countries, Rwanda and Burundi, on a reciprocal basis. As a result, Kenya has come under criticism for blocking the operationalization of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market Protocol, which provides for free movement of labour and services in the bloc.
In conclusion, if the Bill is enacted into law, citizens from Rwanda and Burundi will be eligible for admission as advocates in Kenya.