Justice Patricia Gichohi, representing the High Court, has dismissed Liquid Telecommunication Kenya Ltd’s recent case, wherein the internet services provider sought to connect Kenya with a high-speed undersea cable from China. The dismissal, based on the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) denying a landing license for the 15,000km Pakistan-East Africa Connecting Europe Company (Peace) cable, marks a significant legal development.

The court ruling stressed that Liquid Telecom should have presented its grievances to the Communication and Multimedia Tribunal within one month of CA’s decision, as mandated by legal provisions. Despite CA’s omission of reasons for dismissing the Beijing-backed digital Silk Road initiative, deemed insufficient by the court, Liquid Telecom’s delay in seeking legal recourse stood on shaky grounds.

Justice Gichohi asserted, “The respondent’s (CA) refusal to provide the rationale for its decision does not qualify as extenuating circumstances; furthermore, it serves neither as a valid excuse nor justification for the appellant’s delay in promptly approaching and adhering to tribunal directives.”

On September 5, 2019, Liquid Telecom entered into a cable deal requiring the acquisition of a Submarine Cable Landing Rights License (SCLR) from CA within 135 days. Just eight days after applying for this license, on June 24 of the following year, Liquid Telecom received a response from CA. However, due to subsequent communication and associated processes with CA, including appeals, time lapsed without resolution.

In response to CA’s rejection, Liquid Telecom approached the tribunal on December 3, 2020, asserting that CA had shirked its responsibility by not furnishing timely reasons for dismissal. Despite this appeal, the tribunal dismissed it, prompting Liquid Telecom to escalate the case to High Court proceedings. The company highlighted the potential loss of their investment if Kenya did not permit the Peace cable landing site, emphasizing the tribunal’s failure to recognize valid concerns.

CA countered, stating that the law distinctly outlined Liquid Telecom’s response to a license denial. According to CA, the company should have immediately notified the authority to address any potential violations of contract terms.

This legal saga underscores the significant challenges faced by companies seeking critical international connections, emphasizing the importance of adherence to regulatory timelines and procedures.