East Africa Law Society is a key player and driver of the regional integration process. Our observer status in the EAC enables us to support and fast track the EAC integration process. We are at the forefront of in EAC policy formulation and continuously work with and with respective EAC Sectoral Councils/Policy making bodies. We are a key cog in the legal and judicial affairs committee as well as the Trade and Investments Committee. Through the Consultative Dialogue Framework Committee and the SG’s Forum which we chaired last year, EALS has continually made incisive presentations, advocacy and lobbying especially towards the realization of the Common Market Protocol. This will make among others, borderless legal practice a reality. EALS also conducts regular CLE trainings specific to the integration process.
In the future, we look to produce and disseminate annual score cards on how EAC states are adhering to their integration commitments. A brief introduction to the ‘Mutual Recognition Agreement’.
Pursuant to Article 11 of the Common Market Protocol (CMP), Partner States undertook to mutually recognize the academic and professional qualifications granted, experience obtained, requirements met, licenses or certificates granted in other Partner States. Partner States negotiated Annex (VI)The East African Community Common Market (Mutual Recognition of Academic and Professional Qualifications)Regulations 2011′ which create the modalities through which Article 11 of the CMP will be implemented.
Negotiating and signing of MRA under Annex VI is to be undertaken by ‘Competent Authorities’ which are a Ministry, a department, office, institution or agency designated by a Partner State to carry out the functions required under these regulations. At the 2015 EALS Annual General Meeting, EALS members endorsed the Law Societies/Bar Associations negotiated draft MRA and empowered the EALS Secretariat to take up consultations with the regulators of the legal profession within the EAC Partner States toward finalizing and signing the negotiated MRA.
The national consultation meetings with all legal professional regulators were undertaken in all Partner States. The meetings made comments/ value additions on the draft document which were incorporated to the draft advocate MRA.
From 16th to 19th August 2016 in Nairobi-Kenya, a Regional Negotiation Meeting for MRAs of Advocates took place and was attended by representatives from the Partner States’Ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs/Attorneys General’s Chambers, Judiciaries, Law Societies, Bar Associations, and representative of the Ministries responsible for East African Community Affairs. The meeting adopted the final MRA draft for advocates and requested the EAC Secretariat to organize signature of the MRA by the Attorneys General being the Competent Authorities on the margins of the 19th meeting of the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs.
From the validation workshops carried out by EALS, the Council for Legal Education (CLE) was identified as the regulator in most of the partner states. And since, the Attorney Generals (AGs) were found to oversee the CLEs in most instances, it was decided that the AG would be the primary signatory for each partner states with the national bar of each state being a witness.
The strategic inclusion of the AGs into the MRA discussion had been informed by the fact that movement of services, involved movement of persons which had immigration and education implications, matters that were not directly regulated by the NLS exclusively.
Eventually, the EALS finalized the document as agreed upon by the AGs and National Law Societies of partner states and sought to take and advantage of and have the same executed at the meeting of 18th/19th February 2017 when all the AGs of partner states would be present.
On 18th February 2017 in Arusha-Tanzania, the EALS in collaboration with the EAC Secretariat organized the signing of MRA between Competent Authorities of advocates in EAC. Unfortunately, the Attorneys General did not sign the MRA citing diverse reasons including:
i) The need for time to relook the document;
ii) The need to reconsider the designated signatories of the document;
iii)The underlying and real fear and apprehension that if they signed the document and failed to implement it, they would be sued.
iv) Some Partner states like Uganda gave reasons like they have not yet put in place national Laws to facilitate the implementation of the Common Market protocol.
We look forward to having this document signed so that cross-border legal practice can become a reality.