Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Four of the five partner states of the East African Community (EAC) and the bloc’s chief executive have been taken to court by a Ugandan political party for their failure, refusal or delay to accept the competence of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.
The First Instance Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), an organ of the EAC which is hearing the case, is expected to deliver judgement in due course, according to a statement released by the Community secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania.
Uganda’s Democratic Party (DP) has argued that the inaction of Burundi, Kenya , Rwanda, Uganda and EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera is an infringement of the Treaty establishing the regional bloc.
In addition, the DP has contended that the four partner States have delayed to deposit the necessary declarations for 10 years since the ratification of the Charter of the ACHPR and that “since access to justice is essential to the [EAC] integration process, the continued delay is hampering access to the African Court by litigants from these countries”.
The applicant, represented by Fred Mukasa Mbidde, who is a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and advocate Justin Semuyaba, submitted that only Tanzania had deposited the necessary declaration since the ratification of the ACHPR.
DP has alleged that the Secretary General’s failure to carry out his supervisory role over all EAC partner States contravenes the Community treaty.
But the Secretary General’s legal counsel, Dr. Anthony Kafumbe, submitted that the EACJ does not have the jurisdiction to interpret the ACHPR.
Kafumbe added that the delay of the deposition of the necessary declarations by the partner States was not a breach because the Protocol of the ACHPR does not have any time line.
Besides, he said that the EAC Treaty does not indicate the supervisory role of the Secretary General over the partner States in implementing the deposition of the declarations.
Uganda’s and Kenya’s advocates concurred with submissions by the Secretary General’s counsel, arguing that deposition of the declaration was a process and not an event.
They said there was goodwill among the accused partner States and, therefore, they should be given time to pursue the necessary action.
“It is the discretion of a State to deposit a declaration at its own time,” said Kenya’s representative, arguing that there was no evidence that the country had failed to implement the ACHPR provisions.
In the advocate’s opinion, it was the discretion of a State to deposit a declaration at its own time.
“It’s only the EAC summit of the Heads of State that can address the implementation and the rights of Kenyan citizens are protected by Kenya’s Constitution,” he said.
The applicant, however, opted to withdraw the accusation against Rwanda after being informed that Kigali submitted its declaration after the case was filed at the court.