Rwanda and Burundi will have to commute their judicial system to common law from civil law; a senior official from the East African Community (EAC) has said.
The move will help the two countries to conform to the EAC ahead of the on-going negotiations to form a political federation among the five member-states that make up the regional bloc.
Apart from Rwanda and Burundi, the other three countries; Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda use a common law system.
In a telephone interview, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of political federation, Beatrice Kiraso, said that all public and private institutions will have to unify their systems.
“We were mandated by the EAC Heads of State Summit to do the lobbying and design a protocol that will serve as the foundation for the federation,” Kiraso said. She said that the draft protocol will be presented to the Heads of State Summit to take place in November.
According to Kiraso, the judicial system designed to be used in the bloc is Common Law, making it imperative for all member-states to have this system.
Rwanda and Burundi have been using Civil Law from the colonial era, mainly based on German and Belgian civil law systems and customary law.
Contacted, High Court president Johnston Busigye said that the Rwandan legal system has been undergoing reform since 2001 with an aim of finally switching to the common law system.
“The Rwanda justice system is hybrid, with a mixture of common law and civil law system. There are no differences in our laws and no strange procedure compared to common law,” Justice Busingye said.
Busingye is also a principle judge at the East African Court of Justice.
The UK and its former colonies have Common Law systems whereas France, Germany and others use Civil Law systems. The difference between both systems is that a Civil Law country has a body of law (passed by Parliament) that can be referred to in each individual case and there is no such thing as binding precedence.
On the other hand, in a Common Law system, a past judgment can set precedence to a similar case that may come up in the future. According to Busingye, Rwanda has taken significant steps in converting to the common law system especially in investigation, prosecution and court procedures.
“We prefer hybrid law; we have the Commercial Law and other laws of procedures (almost 400) and other amended laws that have very big convergence to common law to answer Rwanda problems,” Busingye added.
If, Rwanda continues with the hybrid system, it will join countries like Egypt, Canada and Mauritius that use both systems in their judiciaries.