EAC chief justices pledge faster trade dispute resolution
Chief justices from the East African Community have resolved to speed up cases involving trade disputes in order to support the regional process.
The judicial bosses from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Zanzibar met in Nairobi last week to draft a framework where judiciaries in the region will cooperate, share experiences and expertise, harmonise jurisprudence and jointly confront challenges to the administration of justice in the region.
“The process of regional integration, by its very nature, generates disputes between states, states and citizens and the judiciaries have stepped in to solve these peacefully and amicably,” said Uganda Chief Justice, Bert Katureebe.
Whereas trade disputes take long to settle, the EAC summit of the Heads of State has recognised the problem and signed a protocol on extended jurisdiction.
This allows the EACJ to receive and decide cases involving trade and investment matters emanating from the implementation of the Customs Union Protocol and the Common Market Protocol. The protocol is at various levels of ratifications in the partner states.
“As judiciaries in East Africa, we are making interventions in our court processes that would also improve our countries’ ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index,” said Kenyan Chief Justice, David Maraga
Among the bottlenecks to the administration of justice in the region are limited access to justice; limited resources for expanding courts which limits access to justice; lack of understanding on the workings of courts, which sometimes erodes public faith and confidence.
Others are heavy case backlog; poverty in the population and insufficient coordination of the justice sector actors which results in inefficiencies.
There is also need to increase budget allocations to the judiciary to establish more courts and improve access to justice beyond courts.
The meeting observed that one of the leading challenges is limited funding of the judiciary in all the six partner states while the EAC Treaty provides that each country to set aside 2.5 per cent of their national budgets for the judiciary to improve access to justice.