By Adam Ihucha
Kenya and Uganda are scrambling for hosting the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), renewing political supremacy wars in the regional body.
Kenya is the latest partner state to apply while Uganda had started its spirited lobbying blitz some years back, seeking to enhance its position in the region.
Sources say Kenya demanded the EAC heads of state to consider the location of the seat of the EACJ to be in Nairobi, but the 33rd EAC Council of Ministers deferred with the proposal.
The EAC Council of Minister’s report shows Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania’s delegations were of the view that the Kenya’s proposal should await a comprehensive analysis of the equitable distribution of benefits and costs among partner states.
Nairobi’s delegation led by Cabinet secretary responsible for labour and EAC, Ms Phyllis Kandie countered the argument, saying the study had taken too long to be completed.
It argued that there were some other institutions such as Kigali-based EAC Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), EAC Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) in Zanzibar, the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) in Bujumbura, Burundi, that were established and distributed without the completion of the study.
Nairobi was therefore of the view that since it hosts only one of the institutions, it should be considered in hosting the EACJ.
According to the outgoing EAC Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, the determination of the seat of the EACJ is a prerogative of the Summit under Article 47 of the Treaty.
The EAC Spokesperson, Mr Richard Owora, told The Political Platform that indeed, Kenya only hosted Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) in Kisumu, compared to other pioneer partner states of Uganda and Tanzania.
Uganda, for instance, hosts five key EAC institutions, namely East African Civil Aviation Safety, Security and Oversight Agency (CASSOA), Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), East African Development Bank (EADB), Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) and East African Civil Aviation Flying School.
However, Uganda is the only country in the former community (1967-1977) that never nationalised the EAC properties after its collapse in 1977. Kenya nationalised all the aircrafts, while Tanzania confiscated the headquarters buildings.
When the EAC was revived in 1999, the country handed over the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization, Inter-University Council for East Africa and the East African Development Bank to the community.
Plans have been initiated with the government of Uganda to hand over the East African Civil Aviation Flying School in Soroti to the EAC.
Analysts say Kenya and Uganda’s rush to host the EACJ proves the processes and experiences leading up to the collapse of the community in 1977 still linger in the minds of politicians and civil servants.
“The scramble for hosting key EAC institutions contains a seed of EAC destruction and it is purely after thought. It is very unfortunate the partner states have started thinking that if the EAC collapses once again, they should have some properties to nationalise” said Ms Anna Mghwira, a lawyer-cum-politician.
On July 1, 1977, the EAC collapsed after 10 years due to demands by Kenya to have more seats than Uganda and Tanzania in decision-making organs, amid disagreements caused by dictatorship under Idd Amin in Uganda, ideologies of socialism in Tanzania, and capitalism in Kenya.
Elifuraha Laltaika, Harvard Law School visiting researcher says the proper way should be fast tracking the study in order to make decisions based on its findings, as opposed to ignoring it simply because it has taken long to be completed.
“In my views, the Kenya’s approach disregards the fact that resources have been expended in commissioning the study in question, hence not consonance with the financial resources-serving strategies that the EAC’s current chair, Dr John PombeMagufuli is passionately spearheading,” says Mr Laltaika, who also teaches law at Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, adding that any decision that is not backed by a sound research may be costly to the EAC a few years down the road.
“I propose that a progress report be presented and if need be, more time be availed for its completion. What’s important is to set strict time frames and deliverables, and strive to meet them,” he concludes.
The permanent secretary in Burundi’s Ministry of EAC Affairs, Mr Jean Rigi, says the EAC Council of Ministers has decided to put the matter pending, as it waits for the overall analysis of all institutions.
“It is not about any partner state’s position, Uganda was the first to vie for the hosting and recently Kenya expressed the same intention,” Mr Ringi says.
It is understood that Kenya is also lobbying to host the proposed East African monetary institution, the would-be central bank of East Africa, as it seeks to raise its profile as a financial hub.
Officials are on record as saying the country has the facilities and capacity at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies to host the institute.
The 17-year-old EAC with six partner states of South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, currently offers one of the Africa’s largest integrated market and combined GDP of $123.58 billion.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni says the purpose of the EAC integration is enshrined in three words, namely Prosperity, Survival and Security.
“The purpose is to guarantee our survival, prosperity and security in the competitive world where we compete with giants like China, India, and America,” Mr Museveni explains, adding that when Uganda purchases Kenyan products, it supports Kenyan economy, and that the spirit also applies in security issues.