The Chief Justice of Kenya affirms EAC as a pivotal institutional pillar and carrier of cross-border codes of Justice
East African Court of Justice, 22nd July 2021; The Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Lady Justice Martha Koome stated that the chords of the East African Union have indeed led to the formation of enduring and instrumental institutions of justice and Governance.
"The East Africa Court of Justice is a pivotal institutional pillar of this collaboration and a carrier of our cross-border codes of justice"
Her Ladyship asserted that “As a Court, you take the regional lead as a vehicle for realising good governance and the rule of law in the EAC region. The jurisprudence you have built over the years on adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice cannot go unnoticed.” said Lady Justice Koome
Making her closing remarks during the EACJ meeting on validation of Strategic Plan, she noted that the cooperation between Kenya national Judiciaries must be up-scaled and not limited to hosting of the sub registry at the Milimani commercial courts. “I wish to see more tangible cooperation in judicial matters like joint trainings and colloquia. The principles of rule of law and good governance are very important to consumers of our services and the full achievement of economic integration in our region.” said the Chief Justice
Lady Justice Koome further added, “I have noted that the Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) makes provision for cooperation with national judiciaries under Article 33 and 34. Article 33 provides “Except where jurisdiction is conferred on the Court by this Treaty, disputes to which the Community is a party shall not on that ground alone, be excluded from the jurisdiction of the national courts of the Partner States”. Since national courts can also determine cases touching on the Treaty, that calls for training of national Judges on matters of the Treaty. “As the Kenyan judiciary engages in the quest to develop the social justice jurisprudence decreed by our transformative Constitution, we can gain illuminating insights from the progressive jurisprudence developed by the EACJ and the cross-fertilized jurisprudence that we develop can also enrich the EACJ’s jurisprudence and the decisions by our sister courts in other Partner States.
On his part the Judge President East African Court of Justice Hon Justice Nestor Kayobera noted that during the Training of Judges on Good governance and Rule of Law in East African Community, a number of issues were identified and these include; the two (2) moths time limitation requirement to file a case before the EACJ. “It has been realized that a number of reasonable cases have been dismissed on grounds of time barred and this requires amendment of the Treaty of EAC to extend time to give litigants enough time to lodge their cases appropriately.” stated His Lordship
He also pointed out the emerging concerns on Article 30 of the Treaty which allows a Legal or natural person to litigate before EACJ, which provides that “…..any person who is a resident in a Partner State may refer a matter for determination by the Court on the legality of any act, regulation, directive, decision by a Partner State or an Institution of the Community on ground that such act, regulation, directive, decision is an unlawful or an infringement of the Treaty”. The Court has noted that this article limits East Africans who are citizens but residing outside East Africa and therefore there is need to amend the Treaty to accommodate all citizens of East Africa regardless of their residence, since a number of litigants filing cases in EACJ are legal and natural persons.
Justice Kayobera urged the national Courts as part of the enforcement actors on the good governance and rule of law in the Partner States to continue supporting the EAC Integration process by exercising the jurisdiction of the national courts under Article 33 of the Treaty as well as referring matters on interpretation and application of the Treaty to EACJ for preliminary rulings under Article 34 of the EAC Treaty. “Everyone is entitled to justice and therefore it’s our duty to protect the rights of the people of East Africa and access to the Court is fundamental.” Said Judge President
He called upon the Government of Kenya for support in continuing raising the jurisprudence of the Court in the region, protecting its independence and resolving several challenges that affect its operations including the ad-hoc nature of the services of the Judges, financial constraints among others, all that hinder timely justice delivery.
His Lordship Justice Kayobera, commended the recent request received by the Court from the Government of South Sudan to settle a case through mediation as one of the dispute resolution mechanism the Court provides. This is a sign that Member States have appreciated other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to reduce on the costs involved in public litigation process. “It is incumbent on all of us in the profession of international law, whether we are judges, government advisors, scholars or practitioners, to strengthen and promote the various means for settling disputes peacefully. As Judges of the East African Court of Justice, we will always be mindful of this responsibility.” marked Judge President
He concluded by informing the Chief Justice that her being the Chair of the Chief Justices’ forum, the Court has no doubt will find her full support in harmonizing a number of judicial issues across the region to enable the fundamental principles of the Community are achieved. Justice Kayobera commended Lady Justice Koome for accepting to host the next meeting of the Chief Justices’ Forum which is scheduled to take place December 2021 here in Nairobi, Kenya.
In attendance were the EACJ Vice President Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire and other Judges of the Court and staff.
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About the East African Court of Justice
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ or ‘the Court’), is one of the organs of the East African Community established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. Established in November 2001, the Court’s major responsibility is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.
Arusha is the temporary seat of the Court until the Summit determines its permanent seat. The Court’s sub-registries are located in the respective National Courts in the Partner States.