– By Michael Okidi
East African Community (EAC) and Northern Corridor Development Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has lauded the critical role played by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) in resolving disputes within the community and offering the valuable legal back-ups to the EAC treaty.
He said the fundamental principles of the Community such as peaceful coexistence, good neighborliness, good governance, cooperation for mutual benefits and peaceful settlement of disputes, which together support the integration process, were well captured and protected within the mandate of the Court.
Speaking when he officiated at the closing ceremony of a week-long meeting on rules and procedures organized by the EACJ at a Nairobi Hotel, Mr Munya praised the Court’s progressive jurisprudence, which, he said, had served as a guiding light for national courts and best practice for other courts around the world.
“Despite the Court’s jurisdiction being initially limited to the interpretation and application of the EAC Treaty, the Court has not been deterred from making pronouncements on other crucial matters like respect for the rule of law and human rights,” the CS noted.
Mr Munya reiterated that Kenya, as a country, remains a solid, committed and responsive partner in the EAC integration process, and would always play a key role in supporting decisions and policies that would support the Court’s operations.
He cited examples where the Court had boldly pronounced its firm stand on matters of human rights, and in cases where Partner States had failed to fulfill their obligations as per the Treaty, or where they had failed to adhere to specific provisions of the Treaty.
The Court’s effective and efficient execution of its mandate as an arbiter in dispute resolutions, he noted, had contributed greatly to confidence building within the region, besides ensuring uniformity in the application of legal principles and laws across the EAC region.
Mr Munya praised the establishment of the Court’s sub registries in all the partner States, saying that the move had increased its accessibility to litigants.
He expressed hope that a permanent seat for the Court would soon be established in one of the Partner States to enable the Judges work on a permanent basis as opposed to the current ad hoc arrangement.
The CS emphasized the commitment by the Republic of Kenya to collaborate with the Court to enhance access to justice and solidify the gains so far registered under the EAC integration process.
He urged the Court to step up its public engagement and outreach efforts in order to raise awareness on its mandate and extended arbitration jurisdiction.
On his part, the EACJ Judge President Justice Emmanuel Ugirashebuja called for a review and harmonization of the exit procedures for judges serving at the Court to ensure continuity and effective discharge of the Court’s mandate..