Speaker challenges legal fraternity to keep integration “alive and burning”

The EAC stands to gain immensely through an enhanced people- centred approach and driven integration. In this regard, the legal fraternity should and can play a key role in sensitizing citizens on the integration process, EALA Speaker, Rt. Hon Daniel Fred Kidega has said.

The Speaker made the remarks in Arusha when he met with representatives of the East Africa Law Society (EALS) at the Speaker’s Chambers. The delegation paid the EALA Speaker a courtesy call to introduce the incoming Chief Executive Officer, Mr John Patrick Okoth.

The EALA Speaker told the regional law society officials to take a lead role in bringing the legal fraternity and the civil society to speed on matters of regional integration. The Speaker challenged EALS to work with Partner States to ensure speedy realization of approximation of national laws to the Community Acts. He cited the full implementation of the Common Market Protocol as another area that should fully interest the legal fraternity. The Speaker further said it was important for EALS to spread its tentacles to the Republic of South Sudan, given its recent admission into the regional bloc.

“We need to enhance a symbiotic relationship between the legislative body and yourselves and to consult every so often on matters of legislation that improve the lives of East Africans,” Rt. Hon Kidega said. He said the Assembly would work closely with the EALS to ensure outstanding issues in the EAC Cross Border Legal Practice Bill, 2014 were addressed.

In attendance were EALS’ Programme Officers, Ms. Brenda Dosio and Ms Lydia Taima Munganyinka.

The EALS CEO, John Patrick Okoth reiterated the regional law society had intensified its efforts in strengthening the integration process through advocacy around the EAC. He maintained this would be done while holding Partner States to account on matters of good governance, rule of law and human rights in accordance with the EAC Treaty. Mr Okoth said EALS was ready for active and productive engagement with EALA and other stakeholders.

On her part, Ms Brenda Dosio, Programme Officer, Legal and Policy Analysis, said EALS would soon be reviewing its Strategic Plan to strengthen the institution and make it more robust, while Lydia Taima Munganyinka Programme Assistant, Public Interest Litigation, lauded the Assembly for the role it continues to play in the integration process.

EALS has in the recent past referenced a number of applications before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). The recent cases include Reference No. 1 of 2011 of The East Africa Law Society Vs The Secretary General of the East African Community challenging certain provisions in the Common Market Protocol that according to EALS, purport to oust the jurisdiction of the EACJ. Another case pits The East Africa Law Society Vs The Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda and the Secretary General of the East African Community and concerns what the Society calls human rights violations in Uganda during the ‘Walk to Work’ processions. A third case relates to the rendition of Kenyan citizens to Uganda with a view to defining the legal environment for combating transboundary crimes.

Mr John Patrick Okoth who joined the EALS this month, has a rich background in both law and diplomacy. He is a former Deputy Ambassador of Kenya to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. He was once Principal State Counsel in the State Law Office and the Department of Justice, in the Republic of Kenya. Within the diplomatic circles, Mr Okoth is fondly remembered at the Hague for his able handling of the renegotiations of the Treaty Establishing the Common Fund for Commodities among other accomplishments.

Mr Okoth who replaces Mr Tito Byenkya, is expected to steer the Secretariat of the regional bar association, as it redefines its role within the region through the development of a new Strategic Plan for the organization.

The organization headquartered in Arusha, is largest organized professional/ civil society dual membership organization in the region with a strong mandate and interest in the professional development of its members. Its membership spans to over thirteen thousand. The bar associations include the Burundi Bar Association (BBA), Kigali Bar Association (KBA), Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Uganda Law Society (ULS) and the Zanzibar Law Society. EALS enjoys an observer status at the EAC.

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