Ousted regional House speaker granted ‘delayed’ justice at last

Ms Zziwa takes home $586,262 for her illegal removal from the seat

THURSDAY May 19, 2022

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Objections no longer stand in the way of directives to pay the former East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) speaker, Ms Margaret Zziwa, costs of her appeal at a regional court, The Tranquility News has learnt.

The Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) had in May 2018 ordered the East African Community (EAC) to compensate Ms Zziwa for her illegal removal from the office of the EALA Speaker.

The EAC Council of Ministers had in November last year, in turn, authorised the secretariat to pay Ms Zziwa $586,262 as ordered by the court to no avail.

The secretariat reminded the council last month that the directive it made during its 41st meeting in November last year did not specify the source of funds.

“There’s need to source the $586,262 from the EAC General Reserve Account,” the secretariat successfully proposed to the two-day council meeting held from April 4, 2022, in Arusha, to deliberate on financial and human resource matters.

A panel of judges of the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice in a past session. PHOTO | EACJ

The judgment

The appellate court declared in its May 2018 judgment that the removal of Ms Zziwa was an infringement of Articles 53 and 56 of the EAC Treaty on the speaker of the assembly and her presiding in the House.

It faulted the First Instance Division of the same court saying the trial court had the mandate to grant the remedy of damages and to order on costs of both the amended reference filed on February 24, 2015, and the appeal filed on February 3, 2017.

The Appellate court held that Articles 23(1) and 27(1) of the Treaty do not confine the court’s mandate to mere interpretation and making declaratory orders, but to confer authority to grant appropriate remedies to ensure adherence to the law and compliance to the regional mother law.

The retired EACJ president, Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, vice president Liboire Nkurunziza, and justices Edward Rutakangwa, Aaron Ringera and Geoffrey Kiryabwire delivered the judgment.

“We are of the firm opinion that the full effectiveness of East African Community Laws, including the Treaty and the protection of the rights granted by such laws, requires the Court to grant effective relief by way of appropriate remedies in the event of breach of such laws,” the judges say in the judgment.

The East African Court of Justice had found Ms Margaret Zziwa, the former East African Legislative Assembly speaker (pictured), to have been illegally removed from office in May 2018. PHOTO | EALA

After revealing Ms Zziwa was illegally removed, the trial court could order her reinstatement, saying the order would not be overtaken by events as claimed by the secretariat, as the life of the assembly had not ended yet.

Ms Zziwa was removed from office on November 26, 2014; filed the case on December 10, 2014; she was replaced on December 19, 2014; the case was amended on February 24, 2015; the trial court delivered its judgment on February 23, 2017; and the life of the assembly ended in June 2017.

“In the eyes of the law she continued to hold the office of Speaker and the Court could not but order her reinstatement as part of its mandate to ensure adherence to the law and compliance with the Treaty,” the judgment reads in part.

The appellate court further allayed the trial court’s fear of violating the doctrine of separation of powers because election and removal of the speaker was in the EALA exclusive mandate, saying much as the organ had infringed Article 56 of the Treaty, the community could not bar the court from ordering her reinstatement.

In its judgment, the lower court said it had no jurisdiction to grant Ms Zziwa the remedy of damages, ordering that each party should bear its own costs.

Members of the public follow up on proceedings of a case at the East African Court of Justice gallery. PHOTO | FILE

The trial court though found the proceedings for the removal of Ms Zziwa to lack binding power, said it had no power to reinstate her, concurring with the secretariat that her prayer was overtaken by events, as another speaker already had replaced her.

The principle of the doctrine of separation of powers was only untouchable where an organ or institution acted within the law, said the appellate court, stressing that the law is liable to be brought in line by the courts with the sword of checks and balances in case the organ or institution marches out of step with itΩ

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