The Ugandan high court recently ruled that a person who obtains a post graduate diploma in legal practice from Rwanda is not eligible to enroll as an advocate in Uganda, sparking criticism from the Rwanda Law Fraternity.
The ruling followed an application filed in the High Court of Uganda by a lawyer who holds a law degree from the Islamic University in Uganda and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Institute of Legal Practice and Development in Rwanda.
The lawyer in question had been told by the Ugandan Law Council that he was ineligible for enrolment as an advocate in Uganda since he studied from Rwanda which is not a common law jurisdiction. He decided to seek legal review from the Ugandan high court to rectify the issue.
Last week, the high court ruled against him, and declared that a person who obtains a post graduate diploma in legal practice from Rwanda is not eligible to enroll as an advocate in the Ugandan High court.
In an interview with The New Times, Rwandan Lawyer Edward Murangwa weighed in on the decision, arguing that matters of practice should not be equated to a legal system. He further added that the Rwandan legal regime is a hybrid one where all systems are applicable.
"My view of this decision is that, if it is not appealed and reversed, it sets a very bad precedence for both Ugandans who are studying from Rwanda and the Rwandans who are supposed to be practicing their professions in all the East African Community countries," he said.
Didas Kayihura, the Rector of Rwanda's Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD) says the training program that the institution offers is designed for both the civil and common law traditions,
"That is why when selecting our trainers, we are not only binding ourselves to Rwandans. We have trainers from Uganda, Kenya, USA, among other countries," he said.
"Even when we were structuring our program, we contacted them (Uganda). We came up with our own program which was, and I believe is still very attractive not only to the students from within the region of East Africa but even beyond."
He argued that if the Ugandan law fraternity had seen any gaps in the program, they should have said it and the ILPD would have made provisions for what is lacking especially for the students from Uganda.
"Other than saying that whoever trains from Rwanda is not allowed to practice in Uganda, they should rather show what is missing. Rwanda does not belong to either civil or common law,"
"We have students from common law countries like Ghana and Kenya, but also those from Cameroon which is kind of mixed but more of civil than common law," he added.
Richard Mugisha, the President of the East African Law Society (EALS) said such a development undermines the East African common market protocol,
"It is not a good development because it is inconsistent with the undertakings of Uganda under the common market protocol," he said.
The protocol on the establishment of the EAC common market says that for the purpose of ensuring the free movement of labour, the partner states undertake to: mutually recognise the academic and professional qualifications granted, experience obtained, requirements met, licences or certifications granted in other partner States; and harmonise their curricula, examinations, standards, certification and accreditation of educational and training institutions.
According to Kayihura, the students who filed the application in Uganda's High court can appeal, but he also said that the Rwanda Bar Association is handling it through the East African Law Society.