The New Times (Kigali)

12 August 2012

East Africa: EAC Court Opens Kigali Office

In a bid to increase its accessibility and visibility among partner states, the East African Court of Justice has opened a sub-registry in Kigali. The registry which is housed in the premises of the High Court is the first of its kind to open in a partner state.

Speaking at the launching ceremony held at High Court gardens on Friday, the EACJ president, Prof. Harold Senkela said that the opening of registries in the partner states is deeply rooted in the court's spirit of bringing justice closer to the people.

He commended Rwanda's judiciary for offering the regional court with good office space.

"As the EAC bloc moves from one stage of integration to another, all of its organs must move to strengthen that integration process," he stressed.

He also urged the council of ministers, the community's top policy organ, to move quickly to extend the mandate of the EACJ because citizens in the partner states need justice.

The court which opened in 2001 has jurisdiction over matters of the interpretation and application of the treaty, disputes between employees and the community and arbitration in commercial disputes.

Speaking at the same event, the court's registrar, Prof. John Ruhangisa said: "Any active relationship breeds disputes and EACJ is a solution to that occurrence".

"We want to do away with the problem of distance. The cost of litigation has to go down," he added.

He said the court is going to open registries in all member states and fully equip them with modern operational infrastructure like information technology.

Ambassador Dr. Richard Sezibera, the EAC Secretary General noted since its inception the EACJ has heard and pronounced itself on 80 cases adding that for an international court this is a good performance.

He added that over the last one year, 60 cases have been lodged with the court signaling an increased awareness about the court amongst the citizens of the partners states.

"Among the 60 cases, the Secretary General of EAC is also sued," he said attracting prolonged laughter from the audience.

The court has two permanent resident judges; Johnston Busingye and Prof. Harold Nsekela for the first instance and appellate divisions respectively.

Speaking at an earlier interview, Busingye said that in settling disputes, the court is aiding the integration process and contributing to the development of regional jurisprudence.

Nsekela noted that with the operationalisation of the common market the volume of economic, financial and commercial activities is expected to have an increasing trend and so is the role of EACJ.

Also at the ceremony was the Permanent Secretary in the East African Community Affairs Ministry, Ambassador William Kayonga, and East African Legislative Assembly Speaker, Margaret Ziwa.

EACJ was established by the EAC treaty but with very limited jurisdiction compared to its predecessor (East African Court of Appeal).

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