Uganda Sued for Denying Lawyers Trained in Rwanda Practicing Rights

A local NGO has dragged Uganda to a regional court for denying lawyers trained in Rwanda from enrolling and practicing in Uganda.

The Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace), a Rwanda-registered Non-Governmental Organization on June 30 notified the Attorney General of Uganda about a case it filed before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against the Attorney General of Uganda for denying lawyers trained in Rwanda from enrolling and practicing law in Uganda.

According to iPeace, this case stems from the decision rendered by the High Court of Uganda on May 13 where Andrew Bataamwe was ruled ineligible for enrolment as an advocate in Uganda because he holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Rwanda, considered as a country practicing civil law system.

According to Dr. Elvis Mbembe Binda, the Legal Representative of iPeace, this ruling is based on a legal provision of the Ugandan Advocates (Amendment) Act, 2002 that is "contrary to the letter and the spirit" of the EAC Treaty.

He said: "Through the Treaty and the Common Market Protocol, EAC Partner States including Uganda committed to mutually recognize the academic and professional qualifications granted, experience obtained, requirements met, licenses or certification granted, in other Partner States as a way to facilitate the free movement of workers from one country to another."

"In relation to legal professionals, the Republic of Uganda committed to remove all restrictions in its laws by 2010. Therefore, any provision in Ugandan laws subjecting legal practice in Uganda to the obtaining of a degree or diploma from Uganda or from a 'Common Law' country is a violation of the EAC law."

The Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community promotes the free movement of goods, persons, workers, services and capital between the partner states without any kind of discrimination.

The NGO observes that the implementation of the EAC Treaty and its protocols has encountered resistance from Partner States for a while following tensions between some of them.

It considers the case as a way of reminding EAC partner states of their Treaty obligations "and to ensure that EAC laws are effectively implemented across the Community" for the benefit of all east Africans.

"Although this case is about the freedom of establishment of lawyers, the ruling of the East African Court of Justice will have an incidence on the implementation of the free movement of workers in general and on the enjoyment of related freedoms and rights enshrined in the EAC Treaty that many Partner States tend to overlook."

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