James Aggrey Mwamu: A Truly International Lawyer & Champion of Rule of Law
If Raila Odinga is the People's President of Kenya, James Aggrey Mwamu is the Lawyer's President in Kenya. In office and out of office, Mwamu remains one of the most trusted lawyers in the eyes of his professional peers and colleagues and is acknowledged as a visionary who has left an indelible mark in legal practice and the pursuit of rule of law, both at the national and regional level. In equal measure, he is admired by many for his unwavering commitment to excellent practice of law, welfare of the legal profession, service to the society and justice for all.
Mwamu has built this enviable reputation in the last 3 decades painstakingly one interaction, one client and one colleague at a time. The highlight of Mwamu's career as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and as a lawyer's leader was his election and service as the President of the East African Law Society (EALS), the regional bar of all lawyers in East Africa, from November 2012 to November 2014. In that period, Mwamu reengineered the corporate image of the EALS from a laidback entity into the foremost professional associations in East Africa through engagements with strategic partners at the regional, continental and global stage.
The Achievements of the Lawyer's President
Some of Mwamu's achievements at EALS include the re-introduction of biannual awards and revamping of the specialized membership services through the launch of Leading Law Firms Forum and Young Lawyers Forum which exist to this day. Mwamu also turned EALS into a bastion of public interest litigation (PIL) at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) creating a vibrant team that was able to return favourable references at the regional court and in turn influence EAC's laws and policies.
As the President of East Africa Law Society, Mwamu engineered the institution of numerous cases of public importance to test and establish the jurisdiction of EACJ. These included EALS vs Republic of Uganda seeking to hold the Government to account for police brutality against Ugandans during the walk to work saga. EALS vs Republic of Burundi after the Government seized the passport of the President of Burundi Bar Association, engineered his removal from the roll of the Advocates and arrested, the Batonier was eventually released, reinstated and restored to his position.
Mwamu and his team also filed EALS vs Republics of Kenya & Uganda to protest the bundling of Kenyans to Uganda to face terrorism charges in disregard of the law and proper procedure. EALS vs Secretary of EAC sought to strike down Article 30 of treaty limiting access to justice for East African Residents by demanding that all cases be filed with 60 days. EALS also sued the EAC Secretary General and the Government of Burundi following failure of the Summit of Heads of State to intervene on the human rights abuses in Burundi that had taken many lives and destabilized the state.
Even at the national level, Mwamu has remained committed in word and deed to promoting the role of LSK in Public Interest Litigation. He acted for the LSK in the case of the LSK vs AG in the case filed by LSK to stop the Treasury from paying Sh1.4 billion to two European firms linked to the Anglo Leasing Scandal and appealed to the Court of Appeal after the High Court failed to issue favourable orders freezing the payments. Mwamu also represented LSK at the EACJ on a case on the amendment of the EAC treaty.
Astute Civil, Commercial and Public Litigation Lawyer
As an Advocate, Mwamu's main area of practice is civil and commercial litigation and public interest litigation in areas of constitutional law and governance. He has litigated complex and important cases in banking, insurance, medical negligence and malpractice issues, land disputes, admiralty (maritime disputes), commercial transactions, international trade, construction and environmental law, judicial review, criminal law, employment, debt collection and criminal law.
As a litigator, Mwamu has appeared numerous times before the Supreme Court of Kenya, Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Employment and Labour Court, Environmental and Land Court other specialized Tribunals. He has also represented and advised clients at the East African Court of Justice and other international forums in cases touching on public law, public international law and international commercial disputes. Mwamu is also an avid ADR practitioner and has represented clients in domestic and international arbitration and mediation forums.
Mwamu holds a Masters of Laws (LLM) Degree from the University of Liverpool, LLB (Hons) from University of Nairobi and a Diploma of Laws from Kenya School of Law. Admitted to the bar in 1993, Mwamu founded his eponymous law firm Mwamu & Co. Advocates in 1997 and has served as the Managing Partner at the firm for the last 23 years transforming it into one of the most respected legal practices in Western Kenya. He is a prolific columnist and regular commentator in National Dailies.
A Truly International Lawyer and Leader
Mwamu has undertaken numerous legal and organizational consultancy assignments. He was involved in developing the strategic plan of LSK and was a member of the Committee that reviewed the Constitution of the EALS in 2012. He was also part of the team that drafted the Rules for Extension of Jurisdiction of the African Court of Human and People's Rights. He was also among the team that prepared the EAC Protocol for Standards of Foreign Professionals to practice in East Africa. He has presented numerous papers on Constitutional Review and harmonization of Commercial Laws within EAC in many seminars and workshops across East Africa.
Mwamu has broad experience and perspective in leadership and corporate governance gained from decades of serving as director of various organizations and companies both in the private and public sector. He is one of the longest-serving LSK Council Members having been in office for consecutive terms from 2005 to 2016 and as the LSK Vice President from 2007 to 2010. He has also served as Secretary General of EALS from 2008 to 2010 and as Board Member of Kenya School of Law and many other organizations over the years.
Mwamu is a firm believer in giving back to the society and is involved in many community projects in his home County of Kisumu under the auspices of Mwalimu James Japheth Foundation. He is also the Chairman of Participatory Resource Centre for Education, a Kisumu-Based NGO, whose objective is improving education system, teaching skills and educational development in the entire Nyanza Region. He is also the President of KBHS Alumni Association, the body that brings together all the old students of Kisumu Boys High School (KBHS) to build and improve the school.
Mwamu is a member of the Law Society of Kenya(LSK), East Africa Law Society (EALS), Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) and International Bar Association (IBA) and at one time was a Member of the Bar Management Committee of the IBA. This involvement in leadership of regional and international lawyers' organizations has enabled Mwamu to gain deep understanding of legal systems of other jurisdiction and to build an elaborate working network that makes him a truly international lawyer.