Regional Bar Association accuses Burundi of violating East African Community Treaty

The East African Law Society (EALS) has accused the government of Burundi of breaching Articles 6(a) and 7(2) of the East African Community’s founding treaty, which demands adherence to the rule of law and democracy.

The association has reportedly therefore sent a request to the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Dr. Richard Sezibera, to commission an inquiry into the reports and has further suggested the suspension of Burundi from the community if the claims are found to be true.

Several human right groups have accused the Burundian government of enforcing judicial reforms with the goal of increasing the power of the executive and inadvertently destabilising the country’s delicate power sharing agreement between its two main ethnic groups – the Hutus and Tutsis.

Burundian authorities have also been accused of perpetuating human rights violations and corruption.

The regional bar association has implored Dr. Sezibera to counsel ministers and heads of states at the next EAC summit on the appropriate course of action to take to resolve the growing crisis in Burundi.

Last month, the East African Court of Justice, also in Arusha, dismissed a case filed by a Burundian citizen against his government.

The plaintiff accused Burundian authorities of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention. However, the court dismissed his claims, noting that he had waited too long to register his case and could not provide any acceptable reason why he had allowed so much time to elapse.

Dispute over the legality of ‘coalition of the willing’
The EALS has recently challenged the legality of the ‘coalition of the willing’ formed by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, which sidelines Tanzania and Burundi.

According to the President of the association, James-Aggrey Mwamu, “There is no such thing as ‘coalition of the willing’ in a community bound by legal treaty where some countries snub others on pretence that some are slowing them down.”

He stressed on the importance of co-operation to ensure the realization of the community’s goal of full economic integration and also pointed out the dangers of member nations pursuing developmental projects individually.

However, the association’s concerns have been dismissed by critics, who contend that the decision to implement projects with the exclusion of some nations is supported by the community’s treaty.

A columnist for new vision, George Kalisa, notes that “Article 7 Section One, Sub-section (e) of the EAC Treaty provides for the principle of variable geometry, which is widely practised by the European Union, allows partner states to implement programmes, projects and decisions at different paces due to varied levels or priorities.”

Photo by Inspire Rwanda: Dr Richard Sezibera.

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