Retired Sierra Leonean Ernest Bai Koroma has reaffirmed the critical role of national and regional courts in strengthening the democratization process and promoting good governance in Africa.
President Koroma said that regional courts such as the East African Court of Justice complement national courts in upholding the rule of law and the respect for human rights thereby sustaining the growth of democracy on the continent.
“When people lose faith in judicial systems, there are inherent risks for sustainable peace and stability,” he warned.
He pointed out that strong judicial systems limit the risk of institutional and state capture by giving citizens alternatives for redress where they feel aggrieved, adding that credible judicial systems would advance the cause of democracy in Africa.
President Koroma urged the Arusha-based judicial arm of the East African Community, to stick to the law while interpreting the EAC Treaty and ensure that there is justice and fair play in handling cases filed before it.
The Former Head of State was speaking in Arusha, Tanzania when he led a high-powered delegation comprising Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique, and Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia on a familiarization tour of the EAC Headquarters.
The three retired Heads of State were among former Presidents and Government leaders attending the Africa Drive for Democracy Conference (2023), Elders Retreat and Annual Conference.
At the regional court they were received at the EAC Headquarters by the Judge President of the EACJ, Justice Nestor Kayobera, on behalf of the EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki.
The retired Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano emphasized the role of strong institutions, youth and women and good leadership in promoting democracy.
President Chissano said that courts were critical to combating corruption, promoting respect for human rights and acting as arbiters in conflicts and disputes.
On his part, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn hailed the role being played by the EAC and other regional economic blocs in the drive towards an integrated Africa.
Desalegn added that multiple memberships to various regional economic communities could undermine the spirit of speedy integration of the continent.
The EACJ Judge President Nestor Kayobera said that the Court is a stakeholder in matters concerning good governance across the region.
“Our role includes upholding the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, gender equality, and promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights,” said Justice Kayobera.
“However, the time limit to file a case is within 60 days when the complaint arose or when it came to the knowledge of the complainant, and no fees are charged for filing a case,” added Justice Kayobera.
“Majority of the cases filed in this Court are based on these principles, which is why I am proud to say that the EACJ is a stakeholder in good governance and democracy,” he added.
Also present at the event were: Dr. Salah Hammad, Head of the African Governance Architecture Secretariat at the AU; Justice Yohane Masara, EACJ Principal Judge and Ms. Makena Mwobobia, Executive Director – MS Training Centre for Development Cooperation.
Others were Rev. Dr. Benson Bagonza, Board Member, Centre for Strategic Litigation; Mzee Jenerali Ulimwengu, Board Member, Centre for Strategic Litigation, and Ms. Christine Mutimura-Wekesa, the Deputy Registrar of EACJ.