NAIROBI, June 8 Kenya's high court has struck
down legal amendments that critics said curbed the telecom
regulator's ability to manage competition in the sector.
The court's decision gives the regulator, the Communications
Authority of Kenya, a freer hand to oversee the sector at a time
of intense debate over whether or not the country's biggest
operator, Safaricom, has too much market power.
The government changed sections of the law in December 2015,
requiring the Communications Authority to consult Kenya's
Competition Authority, and the communications minister, before
punishing any operator for abuse of dominance.
The government argued at the time that it wanted to enhance
decision-making on dominance issues by bringing in another body
with expertise on competition matters.
The Communications Authority said however that the move
undermined its independence and would discourage investment in
the sector because it restricted its ability to manage
In a ruling issued this week and seen by Reuters on
Thursday, the high court said the changes had a major impact and
could therefore not be allowed to stand. It was ruling on a case
brought by a private citizen challenging the amendments.
The Communications Authority did not respond immediately to
a request for comment.
Joe Mucheru, the minister for information and communication,
said the government would operate within the original law as
ordered by the court.
"We will follow the law. We don't have a problem following
the law," he told Reuters, adding they were already working with
the regulator and operators to boost competition in the sector.
He cited a move requiring operators to interconnect their
mobile financial services systems, allowing users on various
networks to move money seamlessly, which is expected to start
Smaller operators in Kenya's telecom sector have long
alleged unfair competition, saying Safaricom is too dominant.
Safaricom rejects the accusations.
The Communications Authority commissioned a study on
competition in the sector, whose leaked draft earlier this year
showed Safaricom could be broken up due to its size and
dominance of the mobile financial services market with its
The regulator has since clarified it did not intend to break
up any firm but it would explore other options to level the
Safaricom is Kenya's biggest firm by market capitalisation
and dwarfs the two other operators in the mobile market: the
local subsidiary of India's Bharti Airtel and Telkom,
which the French telecoms company Orange sold last
year to London-based Helios Investment Partners.
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Adrian Croft)