East Africa: Lawyers' Body Sue EAC Council of Ministers for 'Breaching' Treaty

24 January 2020

The umbrella association of national law societies in the East African Community (EAC) on Thursday filed a case at the six-member bloc's court in Arusha, Tanzania, against the bloc's Council of Ministers for persistently violating the EAC Treaty.

Comprising Ministers/Cabinet Secretaries from the partner states whose dockets are responsible for regional co-operation, the Council is the central decision-making and governing organ of the six-nation bloc.

The East Africa Law Society filed the case at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania.

The issue of EAC meetings being held regularly and resolutions being passed as well as important decisions made without the involvement of Attorneys General of the partner states, contrary to the spirit of the Treaty, has once more brought to the limelight.

In a statement to the media, the East Africa Law Society (EALS) - the premier regional Bar Association - noted that the Council, being the main policy organ of the EAC, should and must be at the forefront of upholding the laws of the Community and implement them without exception.

"Our case is that the Council has failed in this aspect," reads part of the statement.

According to the EALS, holding meetings without the involvement of Attorneys General of the partner states "has led to delays in realisation of objectives of the Treaty and brought conflicts and confusion in the integration processes."

Reached for comment, Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's Minister of State in charge of the East African Community, and current chairperson of the Council said he could not comment on a matter that has gone to court.

In the past, regional lawmakers also noted that presenting draft laws proposed by the Council to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) was hard because of lack of approval by the EAC Sectoral Council on legal and judicial affairs.

The latter comprises regional Attorneys General, Solicitors General, and ministers responsible for judicial and constitutional affairs. Draft laws must be scrutinised and accepted by this team before submission to the regional parliament.

Furthermore, lately, it emerged that the Council of Ministers has also persistently violated the EAC Treaty and laws by conducting meetings without quorum and purporting to make binding resolutions.

Another way in which the Council has violated the Treaty, it is noted, is creating an institution; the Ad Hoc EAC Service Commission - to undertake the work of human resource and administration at the EAC Secretariat without having the institution properly established by the Heads of State through the Summit.

"Consequently, we are seeking orders that all decisions that the Council of Ministers has made in violation of the Treaty, especially those relating to its 39th Meeting held in November 2019, be nullified," the EALS said.

"The importance of this case is to bring to the attention of the entire citizenry of EAC the importance of respecting laws of the Community in order to realise the benefits of regional integration."

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