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Published:March 31st, 2006 00:55 EST
Arbitration in the Street

Arbitration in the Street

By Juliet Maruru

It’s ten o’clock in the morning, along the Aga Khan Walk, near the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. A middle-aged man is arranging pieces of printed-paper on the pavement while calling out to passersby. He is wearing colorful placards on his chest and back. If you don’t take the time to closely observe him, you might mistake him for a mad man. But if you do stop for a second, his placards will tell you, “Stop me and read. Do not mistake me for a mad man.”

He is B. Mbuchu Gichuki, FIMI, ACIArb., an arbitrator, mediator, and advocate. He is an anti-theft and judicial anti-corruption campaigner, a trained trainer and service provider in Commercial arbitration and mediation, and a legally licensed private judge.

Mr. Gichuki is not a stranger on Aga Khan Walk; he has been setting up his ‘office’ there for three years now. I have personally spotted him at his ‘office’ every day since I moved to the City of Nairobi in 2003.

Today, however, for the very first time, I stopped to talk to him. But before it is my turn to talk with Mr. Gichuki, I stand by while he talks with an obviously troubled aging man. Though trying not to eavesdrop I manage to gather that the aging man is having trouble with a dragging insurance compensation case and he is here for Mr. Gichuki’s advice and possibly mediation.

Finally, I get a chance to talk with Mr. Gichuki and I listen with such fascination it is almost too difficult for me to take notes.

Benson Mbuchu Gichuki was born in a rural location called Gikondi, Mukurueni Division in Nyeri District back in 1947. In 1958, he joined Gikondi Primary School and sat his Kenya Primary Education exams in 1964. From 1965 to 1968, he worked as an apprentice in Mechanic shop in Thika. In 1969, he joined the National Youth Service for two years after which he was employed at various places until he finally joined the Ministry of Works in 1974 as a mechanic. He was promoted to an instructing position in 1975. In 1977, he was awarded a government scholarship to study at the Chelsea College in the UK.

Upon his return, he set up the KITC training center in 1979 while still working for the Ministry of Works. He gave up his position with the Ministry in 1980 to take up full-time positions in management of various training centers. It was at this time that he started studying by distance learning with the Institute of Automotive Engineer Assessors of London. Upon qualification, he set up his own Auto-assessor business and registered with the Commissioner of Insurance. While running his business he faced rampant corruption and it was then that he decided to become a professional arbitrator.

Mr. Gichuki started studying with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which has its headquarters in London. In February 1993, he qualified as an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators [ACIArb.]  In 1994, he attended an ACIArb seminar where members of the ACI, the Attorney-General of Kenya and the judiciary were represented. That same year in December, ACI-Kenya inaugurated the London Court of International Arbitration- Pan African Council and Mr. Gichuki was one of the founding members. Amos Wako, Kenya’s AG was one of four vice-presidents elected by the members, while Judge Bola Agi-Bola, a former AG of Nigeria was elected President of the council.

In 1995, Mr. Gichuki attended a fellowship course with ACIArb, followed by an advanced arbitration course in 2000 and an International arbitration course in 2001. Meanwhile, in 1999 he set up the A&ADR Training Center in Nairobi, the Arbitration Services Center and in 2001, Mediation-Kenya.

It might seem strange for a man with Mr. Gichuki’s credentials to be consulting with his clients on the streets. In reality, Mr. Gichuki has the best chance to reach the people who really need his expertise outside on the street. Because of rampant corruption in the judiciary, insurance business and quite honestly all sectors of business, many Kenyans have found themselves defrauded and oppressed without any knowledge as to how to go about attaining to justice. The idea of obtaining a lawyer’s expertise is beyond thought for many because of the financial implications. Also, most Kenyans are not even aware of their legal rights or legal procedures.

Mr. Gichuki is actively involved in the struggle against corruption and in the past and current constitution review process. His services to the Kenyan public include legal advice, education, arbitration, mediation, and anti-corruption campaigning. While his services may not be entirely free, he does offer services at a far cheaper rate than would be available from lawyers and law firms. In fact, if you consider the scope of his work, you might conclude as if I did, that he is more of a legal volunteer than anything else he might be.

You can contact him at
B. Mbuchu Gichuki, FIMI, ACIArb.

P.O.Box 58709

00200 Nairobi
Luthuli House, 1st Floor, Room A14
Tel +254 722 504 615
      +254 20 317 579
      +254 20 343 081