By Mary Machocho and Henry Sekanjako
AT least 60 percent of Ugandans are ignorant about the existence and services of the East African Court of Justice in regard to the East African Community treaty.
According to a recent survey conducted by the ministry for East African Community (EAC) affairs in conjunction with Synovet, only 40% of Ugandans were aware about the existence of the East African Court of Justice.
“Only 40% of Ugandans are aware of the existence of the EACJ, looking at the research done by a team of researchers Synovet Uganda,” said Lawrence Mujuni, the director EAC affairs ministry of the East African affairs.
Mujuni who was representing state minister for East African community affairs Shem Bageine, at a consultative workshop on the role of EACJ on the EAC integration agenda at Imperial Royale Hotel on Thursday said, there was need to sensitize Ugandans about the existence of the court and its services for easy integration.
“If the people are not aware about the existence of this court, how then is it supposed to serve them,’ asked Mujuni.
In his speech read by Mujuni, Shem Bageine said Partner states needed to school their nationals about the role of the regional court especially at a time when the states are implementing the EAC, customs union, common market and monetary union protocols.
“There is a lot that needs to be done for citizens to fully access justice rendered by the regional court , government pledges to support the court through raising awareness of the public on the EACJ,” said Bageine.
The EACJ is the main judicial body of the EAC. It is also the judicial organ of the community whose aim is to ensure adherence to law in the interpretation, application and compliance with the EAC treaty.
The regional court can be accessed by members of partner states, national courts, legal and natural persons with complaints on the violation of the EAC treaty by any partner states.
According to Prof. John Edues Ruhangisa, the registrar EACJ member states are now able to access the court in their respective countries to file cases without necessary flying to Arusha where the court is headquartered.
“The court has made it easy for the people of Uganda to access it, and as such the Court has opened up sub-registries offices in all the five partner states. In Uganda the sub registry offices are located at the Supreme Court in Kololo,” said Ruhangisa.
Speaking at the same conference, retired Judge Justice James Ogoola said Ugandans needed to make use of the court saying it had gained a lot of respect.
“A number of people are now filing cases at this Arusha based court and this is a great achievement,” he said.
Ogoola urged the community to be visible enough and not only react when people’s rights are infringed on for them to be aware of the court’s existence.
Retired President of the EACJ Justice Harold Nsekela appealed to the EAC council of ministers to ensure that judges appointed to the EACJ first instance division, are on a permanent basis to handle the big volume of cases that are pending hearing.
Nsekela said that there were many cases being filed into the Court’s different registries in the member countries that end up being referred to its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania adding that the court has handled 132 cases since 2005.
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