Chief Justices in the East African Community (EAC) have agreed to establish a forum as a framework for enhancing the contribution of the Judiciaries to regional and national development, protecting the rule of law and promoting the well-being of the citizens of East Africa.
The Chief Justices of the Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Zanzibar,and the President of East Africa Court of Justice agreed to revive the East African Community Chief Justices Forum (EACJF) and asked the Partner States to include their forum as an official actor in the EAC processes particularly on the administration of justice.
They want EACJF engagements be made part of the calendar of EAC activities, and provide for regular and structured direct consultations between the Forum and the Summit on matters relating to the Judiciaries.
“That the Judiciary is an important player in the process of deepening and widening regional integration in East Africa. It is expected to provide legal solutions to the controversies that arise in the integration process. To continue playing this role, we resolve to enhance the collaboration among the Chief Justices and the Judiciaries of East Africa, share judicial experiences, expertise and jurisprudence,” said the Chief Justices in a communiquesigned on May 11 at the closure of a two days meeting hosted by Hon. Justice David Kenani Maraga, the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.
Other Chief Justices are Sam Rugege of Rwanda, Hon. Justice Bart Katureebe (Uganda), Hon.Justice Ibrahim Hamis Juma, (Tanzania), Hon. Justice Chan Reec Madut (SouthSudan), Hon. Justice Omar Othman Makungu (Zanzibar) and Hon. Justice Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, the President of the East African Court of Justice whileChief Justice of Somalia, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Eidle Sulaiman was an observer at the meeting.
According to the communique, the regional chief justices agreed to enhance consultations and engagements with the other arms of government and with the organs of theEAC to deepen judicial independence and expand inter – branch interdependence as exploring modalities for regular and continuous engagement with the executive and Legislative Arms of government.
“We recognize the existence of case backlog and its negative impacts on delivery of justice and commit to upscale initiatives to clear case backlog in all the Judiciaries of East Africa. That as part of strengthening judicial integrity and independence, we commit to strengthen mechanisms for accountability of judicial officers and staff and communication to the public on our work,” reads the communique.
The Chief Justices agreed to continue engaging the Legislative and Executive Arms of Government to improve financial allocations and security for the Judiciary,and to support the establishment and operationalization of a Judiciary Fund or other mechanisms of ensuring financial autonomy of the judiciary.
“That while judicial independence and access to justice are enshrined and protected in our Constitutions and national laws, in reality, several barriers hinder the full realization of these ideals. We commit to collaboratively continue to address the challenges and engage with other stakeholders in the process. We acknowledge the importance of alternative dispute resolution and informal justice systems as critical and complementary strategies to enhancing access to justice and resolve to improve the practical application of these strategies in our judiciaries,” they resolved before directing the Registrar of the East African Court of Justice to transmit the Communique to the Secretary General of EAC for the attention of the Summit of the Heads of States and to other organs of the Community.
The Chief Justices’ sought to explore mechanisms of reviving and strengthening the East African Chief Justices’ Forum; share experiences on the strategies adopted by respective judiciaries within East Africa to address barriers to and improve access to justice; explore modalities of enhanced collaboration in the administration of justice and delivery of judicial services to the citizens of East Africa as well as discussing options for structured linkages between national Judiciaries in East Africa and the East African Court of Justice.