Justice Martha Koome, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, said that the East African Union agreements have indeed led to the formation of enduring and instrumental institutions of justice and governance.
“The East African Court of Justice is a central institutional pillar of this collaboration and a vehicle for our cross-border justice codes,” she said.
His Lordship asserted that “as a tribunal you take the regional initiative as a vehicle to achieve good governance and the rule of law in the EAC region. The jurisprudence that you have built over the years on respect for the universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and social justice cannot go unnoticed ”, declared Judge Koome.
Making her closing remarks at the EACJ meeting on the validation of the strategic plan, she noted that cooperation between Kenya’s national judicial authorities should be strengthened and not limited to the accommodation of the sub-registry of Milimani commercial courts.
“I would like to see more tangible cooperation in legal matters such as training and joint conferences. The principles of the rule of law and good governance are very important for the consumers of our services and the full achievement of economic integration in our region. said the chief justice.
Lady Justice Koome added: “I have noted that the Treaty establishing the East African Community (EAC) provides for cooperation with national judicial systems under Articles 33 and 34.
Article 33 provides that “except where jurisdiction is conferred on the Court by this Treaty, disputes to which the Community is a party shall not, for that sole reason, be excluded from the jurisdiction of the national courts of the Member States”.
Since national courts can also adjudicate treaty-related cases, this requires training of national judges on treaty matters.
“As the Kenyan justice engages in the quest to develop the social justice jurisprudence enacted by our transformative Constitution, we can gain insight into the progressive jurisprudence developed by the EACJ and the intersecting jurisprudence that we develop can also enrich the case law of the EACJ and the decisions of our sister courts in other partner states.
For his part, the presiding judge of the East African Court of Justice, the Honorable Justice Nestor Kayobera, noted that during the training of judges on good governance and the rule of law in the Community from East Africa, a number of issues were identified, including; the two (2) month statute of limitations for filing a case with the EACJ.
“We realized that a number of reasonable cases have been dismissed on the grounds of limitation and this requires an amendment to the EAC treaty to extend the deadline in order to give litigants sufficient time to file their cases. appropriately, ”said His Lordship.
He also highlighted emerging concerns about Article 30 of the Treaty which allows a legal or natural person to litigate before the EACJ, which provides that “… ..any person who is a resident of a partner state may submit a claim. question to the decision of the Court on the legality of any act, regulation, directive, decision of a partner State or of an institution of the Community on the grounds that this act, regulation, directive, decision is illegal or infringes the Treaty ” .
The Court noted that this article restricts East African citizens who are citizens but residing outside East Africa and that it is therefore necessary to amend the Treaty to accommodate all citizens of East Africa regardless of their residence, as a number of litigants who bring cases before the EACJ are legal. and individuals.
Judge Kayobera urged national courts, as stakeholders in the application of good governance and the rule of law in partner states, to continue to support the EAC integration process by exercising the jurisdiction of national courts under Article 33 of the Treaty as well as by referring cases on the interpretation and application of the Treaty to the EACJ for preliminary rulings under Article 34 of the EAC Treaty.
“Everyone has the right to justice and therefore it is our duty to protect the rights of the peoples of East Africa and access to the Court is fundamental. declared the presiding judge.
He called on the government of Kenya to support the further improvement of the Court’s case law in the region, the protection of its independence and the resolution of several challenges that affect its operations, including the ad hoc nature of the services of judges. , financial constraints, among others, anything that hinders the speedy execution of justice.
His Excellency Justice Kayobera praised 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 mechanisms provided by the Court.
This is a sign that Member States have appreciated other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to reduce the costs involved in the public litigation process.
“It is incumbent upon all of us in the profession of international law, whether we are judges, government advisers, academics or practitioners, to strengthen and promote the various means of settling disputes peacefully. As judges of the East African Court of Justice, we will always be aware of this responsibility, ”said the presiding judge.
He concluded by informing the Chief Justice that being the Chair of the Forum of Chief Justices, the Court will undoubtedly find its full support in the harmonization of a number of judicial issues in the region to enable the achievement of the fundamental principles of the Community.
Judge Kayobera congratulated Judge Koome for agreeing to host the next meeting of the Chief Justices Forum to be held in December 2021 here in Nairobi, Kenya.
In attendance were EACJ Vice-President Judge Geoffrey Kiryabwire, as well as other Court and staff judges.