Kenya asks EAC court to throw out bid to block trade deal with Europe
Kenya has asked the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to throw out an application seeking to stop the conclusion of a free trade pact with Europe.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai says the regional court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case since the treaty making process is based on mutual consent of sovereign states.
Prof Muigai argues in his preliminary objection that the EACJ cannot halt the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) since it results from a treaty making process that has been approved by the region’s presidents.
“The second respondent (Kenya) shall raise preliminary objections on the grounds that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter since negotiation, conclusion and ratification of EPA is within the country’s sovereign mandate and in fulfilment of its obligation under international law,” Prof Muigai argues.
A Tanzanian lawyer, Castro Pius Shirima, has filed a case at the Arusha-based EACJ, seeking to block Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan from signing the EPA.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the contentious trade deal with the European Union (EU) in September.
In his application set for hearing on November 28, Mr Shirima has asked the EACJ for orders stopping conclusion of the deal until the perceived risks to the region’s agriculture and industrialisation are addressed by negotiators.
The trade deal with the European Union gives EAC member states duty and quota-free access for their goods to the EU as long as they meet set health and safety standards.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the trade deal in September, but it needs approval by all East African Community members to take full effect.
Burundi and Uganda have indicated they are willing to sign the deal but Tanzania has declined to ratify it citing adverse effects on its industrial ambitions.
Mr Shirima has also asked the regional court to order the EAC secretary-general, Liberat Mfumukeko, to suspend further trade negotiations with the EU until the case is determined.
The petitioner, who teaches law at Iringa University, maintains that his suit has been filed in his individual capacity as an EAC citizen who will suffer “irreparable economic loss and violation of my rights” if Kenya lobbies other member-states to conclude the EPA before the economic risks to the region are addressed.
Prof Muigai however says the regional court does not have jurisdiction over the matter as its role is limited to interpretation of the bloc’s treaty “and does not extend to a treaty making process that is based on mutual consent between a state and third parties.”
He argues that the bloc’s common market protocol allows it to promote trade relations with third parties with instruments such as EPA.
According to him the heads of state summit, which is the apex decision making body, has also not resolved to halt the signing and ratification of EPA.