Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

30 March 2014

Ethiopia: United Insurance vs Chamber of Commerce - Quorum Quarrel Adjourned Until April

During the court session, the Chamber reacted to claims from United that their charter is unconstitutional

The Federal First Instance Court's Fifth Commercial Bench will decide, on April 7, 2014, how the case of United Insurance Vs the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association (AACCSA) will proceed.

During the court session, held on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, United replied to the rebuttal by the AACCSA, which was submitted to the Court as a statement of defence on January 14, 2014.

United filed a charge at the Federal First Instance Court on December 31, 2013, asking the Court to reject the ninth general assembly meeting, which it says was held without the establishment of quorum.

The charge also rejects the legitimacy of the AACCSA's Charter, which was amended in 2010, reducing the quorum to 500. This was as opposed to two thirds of the membership, which was previously the requirement.

United also requested that the Court invalidate the decision of the AACCSA's Board to ban Zafu Eyesuswork, its representative, from any of the Chamber's meetings.

The defendant replied to the charges, saying that quorum can be established if more than 500 members of the Chamber are present. It also argued that the representative of the plaintiff, Zafu, who was formerly a president of the Chamber, was elected following this system.

It also stated that its Board can decide to ban a member from meetings if he or she is found to have been involved in defamation against the Chamber.

The other argument by the AACCSA was that Zafu did indeed attend the ninth General Assembly Meeting held on December 19, 2013.

The plaintiff argued, citing the 2008 Charter that the power of banning a member from a meeting resides with the attendants of the meeting and not the Board.

It also claimed that the Charter was amended in 2010 in the presence of only 860 members. This is despite the total number of members being more than 14,000. The plaintiff, thus, said the meeting where the Charter was amended was illegal.

The plaintiff also argued that the decision of the ninth General Assembly Meeting, held on December 19, 2014, should not be applicable because the meeting was held without the establishment of quorum.

United also said its representative entered the ninth General Assembly Meeting with the help of other Chamber members, not through the Chamber's decision. Even if Zafu attended the meeting, he was not given the chance to vote, United claimed.

The plaintiff also stated that the AACCSA asked them to notify them of their representative for the ninth General Assembly meeting back in October and they did so on November 28, 2013; but, the Chamber waited until December 18, the day before the meeting, to ask them to send another representative.

The defendant argued that the sixth general assembly had decided that members had to attend in person, and not through representatives.

Representation, the defendant said, was applied because of the unavailability of huge conference halls to accommodate all members.

In the current scenario, however, there are big halls with the capacity to accommodate all members. To cover the cost, the defendant said, sponsorship could be solicited.

The defendant also said that there is no mention of sectoral representation in the Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association Establishment Proclamation. It is rather individuals stated it, the defendant argued.

The two sides have also argued over their differences about the amendment of the Chamber's charter, the plaintiff claiming that the 2010 amendment about the quorum was not legitimate, because it did not get two-third of the votes of all members.

The AACCSA countered, saying that the 2008 charter only required two-thirds of the votes, without specifying if it is the votes of all members.

"The individual [Zafu] attended the meeting, even though he was not registered and did not get a card to vote" said the defendant. "The representative of United himself should ask to get a voting card because the Chamber does not necessarily provide him with one," the representative of the defendant argued in Court.

After hearing both sides of the argument, the presiding judge appointed the case to April 7, 2014.

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