WEDNESDAY May 11, 2022
By The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
The newly appointed East African Court of Justice (EACJ) Deputy Registrar, Ms Christine Mutimura-Wekesa, has for the first time in the history of the regional court taken oath of the bloc’s high judicial office.
Thanks to retired Justice Edward Rutakangwa for imposing the Rule No 8(2) in the EACJ Rules of Procedures which requires her to take the judicial oath her predecessor did not.
Ms Mutimura-Wekesa took the judicial oath during a special session presided by the EACJ Judge President Nestor Kayobera at the Appellate Division courtroom at the East African Community (EAC) headquarters.
Mr Michael Ndayikengerukiye, the EAC Secretariat Principal Legal Officer, administered the judicial oath over the weekend.
The East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers appointed Ms Mutimura-Wekesa to the post recently as Article 45(1), which creates the post, stipulates.
She becomes the second Deputy Registrar to serve the court after her predecessor had retired over three years ago.
Ms Mutimura-Wekesa assumes the office barely one month after the former EACJ Registrar, Mr Yufnalis Okubo, attained his mandatory retirement age of 60 years, leaving the post vacant.
Ms Mutimura-Wekesa was a Senior Legal Officer at the EAC Secretariat since 2013 providing legal counsel to the secretariat and the EAC organs and institutions on all regional integration matters.
She also served as Principal State Attorney, Legal Advisory Services in the Rwanda Ministry of Justice where she began as prosecutor at provincial level in the Office of the Prosecutor General.
The EACJ Judge President, Justice Nestor Kayobera, said Ms Mutimura-Wekesa would serve as the EACJ Registrar until the post is filled.
Justice Kayobera advised her to apply teamwork, good faith and judicial diplomacy principle which saw the court working closely with the secretariat and the assembly to resolve a number of issues.
“You have joined a good family,” said Justice Kayobera, adding that a mission of taking the court close to East Africans was in progress.
“Last year, we were in Burundi, this year we will be in Uganda,” he said, explaining that the court had matured, as it had been operating for over two decades now.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pan African Lawyers Union, Mr Donald Deya, admitted that the court had matured, as it had institutionalised itself as an important organ in the lives of East Africans.
“For those of us who have had the privilege of walking alongside the court for the last two decades from our relatively humble beginning, we are quite grateful in how the court has grown,” he said.
His East Africa Law Society counterpart, Mr David Singano, said the society would work with the new Deputy Registrar in monitoring the rule of law and human rights and in promoting access to justice across the East African region.
Mr Singano pleaded with the regional court to consider amending its Rules of Procedure to allow cases filed on certificate of urgency to be heard by one or two judges, pending the partner states’ decision to grant the court permanent judges.
Ms Ruth Simba, the EAC Human Resources and Administration Director, said the secretariat had lost a key staff. “Much as it is an EAC organ and we are all working for the common good, we are happy to give her over to you,” Ms Simba said on behalf of the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki.
She added: “There would not have been a better candidate than Ms Christine, she is conversant with the EAC Treaty.”
The East African Legislative Assembly Speaker, Mr Martin Ngoga, concurred with her, explaining that she first knew her when he was the Prosecutor General of Rwanda.
Retired Justice Rutakangwa recalled that judges were compelled to work overtime because their assistants were not conversant with procedures of the court.
He called on the new Deputy Registrar to read rules of the court and the EAC Treaty, saying they were ‘holy books’ of the court.
“Justice involves timely justice, if the court does not have sufficient workers and working gear, timely justice cannot be provided,” he said.
He called on the EAC Council of ministers to consider filling the post of the Registrar in the near future, saying the duo was key assistants to the judges.
He commended the cooperation among the EAC organs saying the new tradition should be strengthened for the court to operator better than in the past and to expose it to the public.
“During the period we served, we saw an EALA speaker and a secretary general on television. The first time I saw a speaker (Margaret Zziwa) was in court when she was an appellant,” Justice Rutakangwa explainedΩ