Isaac E.N. Okero: The 47th LSK President Making Waves in Litigation in Kenya

Isaac E.N. Okero: The 47th LSK President Making Waves in Litigation in Kenya
Senior Advocate Isaac Okero, The 47th President of the Law Society of Kenya & Managing Partner, Behan & Okero Advocates

Isaac E.N. Okero is the litigation guru who brought a rare and regal respectability to the Presidency of LSK by serving as the 47th President of the Premier association of Kenya's bar with exception and dignity. He famously led the LSK Council in voting to be enjoined in the 2017 Presidential Election Petition which saw the Supreme Court of Kenya nullify a presidential election for the first time in Africa. But before he was LSK President, Isaac had built a name for himself in Western Region and across Kenya as a litigation and dispute resolution lawyer of note with well-earned experience practicing at all levels of the Kenyan court and tribunals, in regional courts and at international forums.

Isaac is the Lead and Managing Partner of Behan & Okero Advocates since 2001. Prior to that, he was a partner at the firm for 9 years from 1992 to 2000. At the premier firm based in Kisumu and Nairobi City, Isaac is responsible for providing leadership and overall management to the firm's legal team. In addition, he is actively involved in providing legal services to a wide range of corporate, public and private clients in commercial and corporate law, employment contracts and disputes, business acquisitions and litigation; property and contractual transactions and disputes as well as constitutional references for the protection of human rights and freedoms.

Isaac has acted for clients in diverse industrial and business sectors including telecommunication, media and technology (TMT) such as software development and communications, agriculture, banking and finance, insurance, transport, environmental law and industrial relations. Isaac has also represented both corporate and individual clients in industrial disputes and class actions acting for both employers and workers as well as trade unions in matters requiring high level consultations and negotiations with the Government and other stakeholders.

 Leading a Multijurisdictional and International Case

Currently, Isaac is leading a multijurisdictional labour case involving multiple claims against James Finlay Kenya Ltd on behalf of Kenyan tea farm workers. He has sued the world's biggest tea producer James Finlay Kenya Ltd acting on behalf of its several farm workers based in Kenya seeking damages in a personal injury court in Scotland. The tea pickers claim they have suffered severe health problems because of working conditions on farms run by James Finlay Kenya Ltd and are suing for damages of at least £15,000 each in the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

Speaking to BBC, Isaac summed up his clients' case thus: "The tea workers are saying that on account of the years of service that they have provided to James Finlay Kenya Ltd, and the circumstances and conditions under which they were compelled to work, they have suffered severe degenerative injuries which have severely impacted on their lives. These injuries are both physical and mental."

According to Isaac, he took up the case because he believes it will have wider significance and potential impact on scale. "It will hopefully compel the company to radically change the conditions under which the workers are working, so these proceedings should result in substantial improvements in the terms and conditions of the employees still picking tea and hopefully bring to an end the prospect of more Kenyan workers suffering severe and long-term injuries in the way that these seven workers have," said the Former LSK President.

Isaac is coordinating a large International Legal Team which includes the Edinburgh-based International law firm Balfour and Manson led by its personal injury specialist expert lawyer David Short in representing the tea pickers. Isaac, his firm's legal team in Kenya and the Edinburgh team have already secured a major win against the multinational after the Scottish Court ordered Finlays to give the tea pickers' legal team access to the farms in Kenya and allow them to inspect their working conditions. Behan & Okero team in Kenya has applied in Kenyan Courts to enforce the order in the country.

Public Interest Cases for Access to Justice

This is just one of the many public interest cases Isaac has taken up in defense of the rights of the downtrodden in the society against big names in the recent days. Isaac and the Behan & Okero Team maintains a robust pro bono scheme through which it serves individuals otherwise unable to access legal services. It also offers this service through partnerships with organizations engaged in community development and the protection of environment.

Last year, Isaac Okero and four (4) other lawyers sued the Government of Uganda at the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) for failing to control floods around the shores of Lake Victoria, resulting in displacement of people and damage to their property. He accused Uganda of violating their fundamental human rights by breaching the EAC Treaty and the Nile Basin Comprehensive Framework Agreement on how much water Kampala is supposed to release into Lake Victoria.

Isaac is also the lawyer acting for John Michael Obure, the Kisumu resident who recently challenged the Draft Kisumu County Valuation Roll 2017 gazetted by Governor Anyang Nyong'o's County Government arguing that it imposes exorbitant property rates of up to 7, 275 percent for free hold land and 5,343 percent on leasehold land. The tenant of a rented property in Manyatta Kisumu is seeking the Environment and Lands Court in Kisumu to suspend the valuation roll.

Isaac studied law at the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom and was admitted to the bar in December 1989. He served as the inaugural chair of the Kisumu branch of the West Kenya Law Society (1998 to 2000), helping transform the standards of professionalism in practice and ethics in Kisumu. He has also served on the Board and Committees of Nyanza Club, Kisumu International School, Equator Motor Club, Braeburn Kisumu International School, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Nyanza Reproductive Health Society (NRHS). He is a member of the Law Society of Kenya, the East Africa Law Society, Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Bar Association.

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