7 July 2012

East Africa: EAC Judges Check in to Arusha

Justice Johnston Busingye, President of the High Court, and Tanzania's Court of Appeal judge, Justice Harold R. Nsekela, have assumed their offices at the East African Court of Justice. In Arusha, Tanzania, Nsekela is the regional court's president while Busingye is the Principal Judge.

The Judges' taking up residence in Arusha follows a directive by the 24th Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers held in Burundi last November to streamline the duties of the two judges.

Since the Court was inaugurated in 2001, the President of the Court and the Principal Judge have been performing their statutory functions as administrative heads of the EAC judicial organ off-site, a practice viewed as likely to undermine the institution's efficacy, especially in light of the increasing workload.

The steady increase in the number of cases prompted the Court to submit a proposal to the 24th Ordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers to engage the Judge President and the Judges of the First Instance Division full time in Arusha.

The Council however decided that, it was only urgent to approve permanent residence for the President and Principal Judge, while the rest will carry on serving in both their national judiciaries and at the regional court.

Since its inception, EACJ Judges have been working on an ad-hoc basis in accordance with Article 140 (4) of the EAC Treaty. This was largely due to the low volume of judicial work which did not warrant having a permanent regional Court.

With increasing cases brought before it in the last two years, the First Instance and Appellate divisions of the EACJ now hold sessions two weeks per month. The two Judges are expected to boost the Court's effectiveness in light of the rising demand for its services.

"Having judges permanently resident in Arusha will help improve the court's performance and end the remote control type of work," the Registrar, Dr John Eludes Ruhangisa, recently told this paper.

It is anticipated that, with the opening of sub-registries in the Partner States and the operationalisation of the Common Market Protocol, the workload will grow even bigger.

The principle court president is in charge of the overall administration and supervision of the Court and directs the work of the Appellate Division.

The Principal Judge directs the judicial work of the First Instance Division and represents it and regulates the disposition of matters and presides over sessions of this Division.

The day-to-day administration of the Court is done by the Registrar assisted by the Deputy Registrar, Geraldine Umugwaneza.

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