New regional court judges appointed in the middle of a row of desks

Judge Yohane Masara Senior Judge (Tanzania), Judge Kathurima Minoti (Kenya), Judge Richard Muhumuza (Rwanda), Judge Nestor Kayobera President of the Court, Judge Richard Wejuli (Uganda), Judge Anita Mugeni (Rwanda) , pose for a photo during the induction of the new EACJ judges on April 14, 2021. [Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

New judges for the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) were unveiled yesterday even as the dispute over the location of the court’s seat continues.

The appointment of the six judges is expected to reignite the feud between the EAC’s founding states – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – who are battling over which of them should host the offices.

Supreme Court Justice Smokin Wanjala, who represented Acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, opened the induction of judges in Nairobi.

The tribunal, which hears cases of violation of the law as a key principle of the East African Community Treaty, is currently based in Arusha, Tanzania. The EACJ was inaugurated in 2001 after its establishment in 1999.

Arusha, Nairobi and Kampala have argued over who should host the EACJ headquarters, eyeing the economic benefits that flow from the Court’s activities such as conferences and accommodation despite equal monetary contributions from member states.

The regional tribunal also serves other partner states of Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

The argument has been that Tanzania is home to all the organs of the EAC, including the Secretariat, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the EACJ, hence the pressure for the court be moved.

“The matter is being discussed at the summit and hopefully this will be one of their agendas the next time they meet,” said EACJ Registrar Yufnalis Okubo.

The judges appointed for the Trial Division are Judge Yohane Masara (Tanzania) who will serve as Senior Judge, Judge Richard Muhumuza of Rwanda and Judge Richard Wejuli of Uganda. They succeed judges Monica Mugenyi (Uganda) Faustin Ntezilyayo (Rwanda) and Fakihi Jundu (Tanzania).

The new judges of the Court’s Appeal Division are Nestor Kayobera, President of the Court (Burundi), Kathurima M’inoti (Kenya) and Judge Anita Mugeni (Rwanda).

The appellant judges succeeded Judges Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, former president of the tribunal (Rwanda), retired judge Aaron Ringera (Kenya) and Liboire Nkurunziza (Burundi), who is the outgoing vice-president of the tribunal.

“The summit of heads of state appointed the six judges on February 27 to serve the regional bloc for seven years,” Kayobera said.

Okubo said the lack of adequate funding has been the biggest challenge in the court’s operation, citing the increase in the number of cases filed.

The tribunal has an annual budget of 3.9 million dollars (416 million shillings).

Most of the cases brought before the tribunal concern violations of the Treaty establishing the East African Community.

Elna M. Lemons