Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

East African Community; Kenya; Uganda: Lawyers Sue over Rights Violations

(June 10, 2011) In late May 2011, lawyers from the East Africa Law Society (EALS) filed several suits with the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, against the Kenyan and Ugandan governments and the East African Community (EAC). (Zephania Ubwani, Kenya and Uganda Govts Sued in Arusha, THE CITIZEN (May 31, 2011).) The legal group alleges that Ugandan security agencies committed human rights violations and acted in contradiction to the country's Constitution during recent demonstrations. (Zephania Ubwani & Benon Herbert Oluka, East Africa: Nation Sued at EA Court over Protests Clampdown, THE MONITOR (June 1, 2011).) The EALS describes itself as the “premier regional Bar Association in East Africa.” (About EALS, EALS website (last visited June 6, 2011).)

Aggrey Mwamu, Vice-President of the EALS, explained before the suits were formally filed that the organization was able to raise human rights issues, stating “[t]he memorandum of articles empowers the society to intervene in matters pertaining to human rights violation and arrest the situation before it gets out of hand.” (THE CITIZEN, supra.)

The suit claims that gross violations of human rights were committed in April of this year by Ugandan security forces, in response to a “walk-to-work” protest, and that at least ten people were killed, several were injured, and others were subjected to arbitrary arrests. In addition, the government is being blamed for property damage that occurred at the same time. (THE MONITOR, supra.) Mwamu alleged that the actions of the Ugandan government violated clauses of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty on good governance and human rights. (The Citizen, supra.) The EAC is a regional organization formed by Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda by a treaty signed on November 30, 1999. (For the treaty text, see Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, EAC website (last visited June 8, 2011).)

The suit filed against Kenya by EALS claims that citizens of Kenya were improperly extradited to Uganda, where they were charged with taking part in terrorist activities in July 2010. The suit alleges that required procedures for extradition were not followed. As Mwamu stated, “[t]he Kenya [sic] citizens were handed over in a casual manner without any legal process. This was also inconsistent with the Kenya Constitution.” He went on to criticize the EAC officials for not pointing out the lapse to the governments involved. (THE CITIZEN, supra.)

An additional suit was filed by the EALS targeting the EAC itself, arguing that its Common Market Protocol is inconsistent with provisions of the EAC Treaty. The Protocol came into force on July 1, 2010. (Text available from the EAC website (last visited June 8, 2011).) The Court will consider the suits over the next few weeks and determine whether to hear the cases. (THE CITIZEN, supra.)