11 June 2016

East Africa: Former EAC Employees, in Sunset Years, Irked By African Court Ruling

The African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (AfCHPR) last week dismissed a case filed by the former employees of the defunct East African Community (EAC) against the Tanzania government.

The employees alleged their human rights were violated by being denied their terminal benefits.

In their application, the 2,000 employees alleged that non-payment of their terminal allowances after the 1984 agreement on division of the assets and liabilities of the former Community which collapsed in 1977 constituted violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

They further alleged that the brutality and humiliation they suffered at the hands of the police when fighting for their rights in the local courts and other platforms was discriminatory and aimed at destruction of the rights and liberties set forth in the Declaration.

The application by Frank David Omari and others against the Tanzania government was filed before theArusha-based Court on January 17th, 2012 ostensibly after exhausting the local remedies before the Tanzania courts and other arbitration channels.

Among their claims were damages arising from the police brutality while fighting for their terminal entitlements after the 2005 Deed of Settlement and at the time of implementation of the Deed of 23rd May 2011.

The Respondent (Tanzania government) had maintained that the allegations that the former employees of the regional organization had not been afforded the right to a fair trial were erronous given the fact that the Tanzanian judicial system is independent.

The ten judges of Court, therefore, unanimously declared the application 'inadmissible' on grounds that the Application for Review dated June 28th, 2014 does not meet the requirement regarding new evidence and that some reports on alleged human rights violations were mere fabrications and politicisation of the matter.

The African judicial body had earlier on March 28th, 2014 rejected the claims by the workers on grounds that their application did not follow the right procedures before being filed before it.

The greying former employees of the defunct Community took the normally quiet Court premises in the leafy suburbs of Arusha along the Dodoma road by storm, nearly filling up the seats in the chambers.

They were led advocate Pius Chabruma.

However, their pursuit for a fair trial hit the rock once again after the Court said they did not follow the right procedures that merit hearing at the continental judicial organ.

Reading the ruling on behalf of the panel of 10 judges, Judge Sylvain Ore said the suit will not be heard unless the proper procedures are followed and that they should first exhaust the local courts before appealing to AfCHPR which deals mainly with matters pertaining to violation of human rights.

After the judgment, some of the former employees of the Community looked puzzled and instead blamed the African Court for dismissing the case, hinting it could be a conspirancy between the judicial organ and the government of Tanzania.

Speaking on the behalf of his colleagues ,Mzee George Ndibaze claimed he was surprised by the recent statement issued by the Attorney General that the payment of terminal benefits to ex-EAC employees has been finalized.

Instead he said there was an outstanding arrears amounting to Sh. 333 billion.

He added that at one time the former President Benjamin Mkapa promised the government would disburse Sh. 453bn as their terminal benefits. By 2005, some Sh. 117bn had been settled.

One of the applicants, an old lady whose name was not obtained, shed tears after the ruling, saying some of her colleagues had passed away many years ago and that they may not get their terminal benefits because some of their family members were not able to make a close follow up.

She called on President John Pombe Magufuli to intervene in the crisis and ensure they are paid their dues like their counterparts in Kenya and Uganda.

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