In the era of I need 2k urgently, or better yet “kuna deal nangoja ivaane” it’s hard not to have been a victim of a debtor at some point. That feeling, the helplessness, being taken advantage of, and not having anything to do is grueling. I suppose it’s even worse for businesses and service providers considering a loss of income easily translates into losses.
For the longest time, the thought of a court case represented a lot of lost hope due to sluggish judicial process, and further expenses just to mention a few. The establishment of the small claims courts Eldoret, however, marked a departure from that. All civil and commercial disputes, involving monies under 1 million shillings are now handled within 60 days by the small claims courts.
The Small Claims Court Eldoret was established on the 21st of February 2022 provides for a more simplified system. Fewer technicalities apply toward resolving delays, denials, or liabilities incurred from unpaid dues. Thanks to this, as of 28th November 2022, 1,035 cases had been registered. 687 have been resolved and 348 are pending. So far, the court has unlocked about 120 million shillings since February 2022.
To understand it in the context of Eldoret, we sat with a resident magistrate; who is also the Eldoret Small Claims Court’s regional Adjudicator, Ms. Tabitha Wanjiku Mbugua.
“The most prevalent cases in Eldoret are the loans; the friendly loans, the shylocks, the Mama Mboga informal agreements among others. The criminal obstinance of such loans is what comes to this court as a debt.” Ms. Tabitha Wanjiku Mbugua
Cases that qualify to be adjudicated under the small claims act
To establish context for this, the cases that can be filed under the small claims court include;
A contract for the sale and supply of goods and services. Whereby goods and or services were supplied but never compensated as per agreement. Hence breach of contract.
A contract relating to money held and received. These are essentially debts.
Liability in respect of loss or damage caused to any property or for the delivery or recovery of movable property. This is concerning personal injury.
“So, for example, if a motor vehicle was involved in an accident, the material damage aspect of it. If they want to complain to be compensated for the damage to the motor vehicle.” Said Tabitha.
Status on counterclaims under any contract. This is the defendant filing against a claimant’s claim.
In regards to the informal agreements; in this case, unwritten; I sought to understand how the adjudicator goes about resolving them, and here is what she had to say:
“Since rules in this court are not as technical, with my experience and exposure I can identify when something is credible and I can determine that this person has sufficiently proven at which point the issue totally lies at the discretion of the adjudicator.”
Litigants can pursue compensation by moving to court either by themselves or with the help of a lawyer. The court then ensures that people are compensated by enforcing the various methods of execution. Among them;
Attachments/ garnishment of debtor’s wages, real property, or bank account or commitment of the debtor to civil jail.
Benefits to the people
It goes without saying that, the court has been of benefit to the residents of Eldoret and the region in general. First, it has toned down on technicalities. This has made it easier for the litigants to follow through and understand everything involved as well as what is needed of them.
Secondly, the timely manner of resolving conflicts. A lot of businesses, as well as individuals, can get feedback and solutions to their challenges in time which makes commercial sense to pursue small claims.
Probably the most important of them all; is how cheap and less stressful the process is. Even the filling of the case is straightforward.
“There are specific files you need to fill. They are found on the judiciary website. That’s the statement of claim and the response to the statement of claims.” Said Tabitha.
The follow-through is less overwhelming as the judgment is made in less than two months.
Who, in Eldoret should consider this?
The small claims court Eldoret comes as a sigh of relief for the residents as it is an ideal debt recovery avenue. As long as the claimed amount is below a million shillings, these claims can be heard. Civil and commercial entities especially those who are cash-strapped now have a way out. Similarly, content creators, suppliers, and other forms of contractual procured service providers can benefit.
Furthermore, creditors like chamas, SACCOs, and other financial institutions with claims below a million shillings will find the small claims court ideal.
As Ms. Tabitha Mbugua says, the concept shall continue going through a remodel. through feedback, the system can always be made better. The goal is to achieve a real-time justice system.
Just curious though, did the deal ivaane guy pay you? … Ooh well, me neither!