Lawyer seeks to block DR Congo admission to EAC bloc

Sunday June 20 2021
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The East African Community Secretariat headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO/FILE

By Zephania Ubwani

A Ugandan lawyer has filed a suit with the East African Court of Justice seeking to block the admission of DR Congo into the East African Community (EAC) bloc. 

Mr Adam Kyomuhendo, an advocate of the High Court of Uganda, filed the suit before the First Instance Division of the regional court against the EAC secretary general and attorney generals of all the partner states. 

Mr Kyomuhendo works with Byaruhanga and Company Advocates in Kampala.
His application seeks court orders to restrain the admission of DR Congo into the six-nation bloc by the EAC heads of state.

Mr Kyomuhendo wants the admission of the vast country as the seventh member of EAC stayed until hearing and determination of the case.

The court will fix the matter for hearing in the next session. 
The main case is seeking court orders to permanently stop the Summit, a supreme organ of the EAC, from admitting the country into the bloc. 

The suit alleges that DR Congo has been illegally and without due trial or process holding Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party activist Sam Mugumya and more than 35 other Ugandans. 

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Mr Kyomuhendo alleges that Uganda nationals have been held in the DR Congo for more than six years now contrary to human rights laws and the EAC Treaty.

He alleges that to admit the DRC into the Community in light of those fundamental human rights breaches would be to flagrantly violate the EAC Treaty.

The treaty stipulates that as a pre-condition for admission into the EAC, the Summit must verify and ascertain that such new members adhered to the universally accepted principles of good governance, democracy and the rule of law.

Other requirements are social justice and observance of human rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. 

Recently, EAC announced that a verification team to assess the DRC admission into the bloc will soon be dispatched to DRC capital Kinshasa and has budgeted $188,000 (about Shs660m) for the exercise. 

The mission, to comprise three experts from each of the six partner states, will be deployed to Kinshasa later this month.
The exercise will be conducted from June 23 to July 3. Its findings will be discussed at various levels and forwarded to the EAC heads of state.

The last EAC Heads of State Summit, hosted by Tanzania in February, directed the secretariat to expeditiously undertake the verification mission.

The mission has been tasked to submit its report to the EAC Council of Ministers - the policy organ - in November.

The verification mission will, among other things, review the current status of the vast DRC in international law. 
It will also establish the country’s level of conformity with the criteria for admission of ‘foreign’ countries as provided in the EAC Treaty.

Among a set of criteria for acceptance into the Community is potential for economic contribution to the EAC bloc. 
If admitted, the resource-rich DRC and long time trade partner will become the seventh member country of EAC.

Only last week, President Museveni and his DRC counterpart Felix Tshisekedi launched the Mpondwe Bridge in Kasese District, which links Uganda to DRC. The two heads of state also commissioned a joint construction project of major road infrastructure that links the two countries and is aimed at boosting trade between the two neighbouring countries.

About Sam Mugumya

Mugumya was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014, together with Aggrey Kamukama, Steven Mugisha, Nathan Bright and Joseph Kamugisha. At the time, he was said to be held at Ndolo Military Prison.

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Sam Mugumya. PHOTO/FILE

Government then said Mugumya was engaged in subversive activities and was arrested with dollars and sensitive documents.

Then State minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello told Parliament in 2016 that due to lack of an extradition treaty between Uganda and DR Congo, Mugumya would not be extradited back to Uganda.

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