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New regional court judges named amid row on offices

By Jacinta Mutura | April 15th 2021

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

New judges of the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) were unveiled yesterday even as a tussle over the location of the court’s headquarters continues.

The appointment of the six judges is expected to revive the wrangle among the EAC founding states - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - battling over which of them should host the offices.

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

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

Arusha, Nairobi and Kampala have been tussling over who should house the EACJ headquarters, eyeing the economic benefits that come with the court’s activities such as conferences and accommodation despite equal monetary contributions by the member states.

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

The argument has been that Tanzania hosts all the EAC organs, including the Secretariat, East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the EACJ, hence the push to have the court relocated.

“The matter is being discussed by the Summit and I hope it will be one of their agenda the next time they meet,” said EACJ registrar Yufnalis Okubo.

The judges appointed for the First Instance Division are Justice Yohane Masara (Tanzania) who will serve as the Principal Judge, Justice Richard Muhumuza from Rwanda and Justice Richard Wejuli from Uganda. They are taking over from Justices Monica Mugenyi (Uganda) Faustin Ntezilyayo (Rwanda) and Fakihi Jundu (Tanzania).

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

The appellant judges took over from Justices Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, former president of the court (Rwanda), retired Justice Aaron Ringera (Kenya) and Liboire Nkurunziza (Burundi), who is the outgoing vice president of the court.

“The Summit of the Heads of State appointed the six judges on February 27 to serve the the regional bloc for seven years,” said Kayobera.

Okubo said lack of adequate finances has been the biggest challenge in running of the court, citing increase in the number of cases filed.

The court has an annual budget of $3.9 million (Sh416 million).

Most of the cases filed at the court revolve around violations of the treaty establishing the Eeast African Community.

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