BUJUMBURA - The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has said that the Common market and Customs union protocols will pose a challenge to its mandate of ensuring peaceful settlement of disputes when the time for implementation comes.
In his address to the ongoing four–day Inter–Parliamentary Relations Seminar in Bujumbura, Burundi yesterday, the EACJ Registrar, Dr John Ruhangisa, said that the court had been rendered toothless because of other dispute resolution mechanisms established by the protocols.
“The court is potentially empowered to handle matters of the Common market, but its hands have been tied up.” Ruhangisa told several lawmakers from partner states of the East African Community (EAC) at the Burundi National Assembly.
The EACJ Registrar expressed fears that at a time when people are expecting the Court to play an instrumental role in implementing the Common market protocol, the community still harbors what he described as a sovereignty syndrome.
“A treaty had to be amended to emphasize that this court shall not touch things that the treaty says are preserves of national institutions, even where the court considered it had jurisdiction.”
“So, in this sovereignty we keep giving strength to national institutions at the expense of our regional institutions. We need to be clear.” Ruhangisa said.
The revelation is likely to generate debate among regional lawmakers especially that the Common Market protocol has less than six months to come into force after its ratification by partner states.
Earlier, Dan Ameyo, a consultant on Common Market, said that in order to gain the benefits of a common market, partner states would have to surrender some degree of policy freedom especially the ability to set independent economic, fiscal and trade policies.
Dr James Ndahiro a Rwandan member of the East African Legislative Assembly also added that powers need to be given away at each step of regional integration in favour of the community and not in the interest of a specific country.