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Successful second annual conference of the Leiden Center for East African Law at the EAC headquarters in Arusha

On the 5th of May 2016, the second annual conference of the Leiden Center for East African Law (LEAC) took place at the East African Community headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. The Conference was organized on the occasion of Europe Day with the generous support of the EAC, the EU delegation to EAC and Europa Instituut of Leiden Law School.

The conference, brought together judges, academics, legal practitioners, business people and government and EAC officials as well as students to discuss the challenges and opportunities for

building a legal community to support and inspire East African integration. In line with the core approach of the LEAC, bringing together EAC and EU expertise on regional integration, the  conference combined EAC experiences with insights from EU integration on the importance of a vibrant and diverse legal community.

The conference also hosted the official presentation of the manuscript “EAC Law, Institutional, Substantive and Comparative EU Law Aspects”, the first text book on EAC law. The manuscript has been written in a cooperative effort by East African and Leiden authors, and will form the foundation for further research and teaching cooperation between the LEAC, the EAC, and leading universities in the Partner States. The textbook is edited by Hon. Justice Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, the Judge President of the East African Court of Justice; Prof. John Eudes Ruhangisa, Judge of the High Court of Tanzania and former Registrar of EACJ; Dr. Armin Cuyvers, Assistant Professor of EU Law at Leiden University and Co-Chair of the Leiden Centre for East African Law and Prof. Tom Ottervanger, Professor of EU Law at Leiden University and founder of the Leiden Centre for East African Law.

The conference was opened by Hon. Justice Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, the Judge President of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). The Judge President, who himself had been vital in bringing together all parties concerned, applauded the relationship the EAC has fostered with the EU, stating that “the EAC greatly values the strategic operations of the EU and upholds it as one of its very committed development partners”. He further added that the textbook being presented “is the result of a unique collaboration between the East African Court of Justice, the Leiden Centre for East African Law and an exclusive selection of EAC law experts in the different EAC Partner States.” in his view, the book will forma vital tool for judges, academics, civil servants and students alike, and will form a tool to create and unite a legal community around a shared vision and understanding of EAC law and East African integration.

Subsequently the gathering was welcomed by Roeland van de Geer, EU Ambassador to Tanzania & the EAC. He thanked the EAC Headquarters for hosting this important and special event together with  the EU and pointed out that it was now a firm tradition for the EU and the EAC to organize, on the occasion of the EU Day, a conference on an important topic in the framework of EU’s support to the regional integration. “This year we chose to celebrate the launch of a textbook titled; EAC Law, Institutional, Substantive and Comparative EU Law Aspects”, the EU ambassador stated, a truly fitting way to celebrate the symbolic start of European integration with the Schuman declaration on 9 May 1950.

On behalf of the EAC Secretary General Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Dr. Enos Bukuku, thanked the EU for its valuable support and contribution to the EAC integration agenda affirming that; “Indeed, the EU’s support in EAC’s programmes, activities and projects has made a significant impact on the integration agenda.’ He added that the EAC had benefited from exchange of knowledge and best practices from the EU, apart from the financial support. “We count on continued support from the EU as well as on exchange of information and experiences on integration.”

Dr Bukuku also appreciated the efforts of the editors of the textbook on EAC Law which was launched at the event. He added that the book will be of great value to consolidate and press forward the successes of the EAC, as the law plays a vital part in regional integration.

Delivering a powerful keynote address, Prof. John Eudes Ruhangisa, Judge of the Tanzania High Court and founding Registrar of the East African Court of Justice, reflected on the main concerns of legal practitioners and academics across the region. He emphasized the need to embrace a truly supranational line for the EAC. This requires resisting the ‘sovereignty disease’ that leads to an increasing intergovernmentalism that undermines the effectiveness and transformational potential of the EAC. For real integration, that delivers real benefits to the peoples of the EAC, real transfer of competences is needed: one cannot have one’s integration cake in the morning, and have the same cake as a sovereign in the afternoon. Overcoming the sovereignty disease and accepting true supranationalism, as in the EU, therefore forms a necessary step for EAC integration. This also means a full acceptance of the fact that “the of the EAC takes precedence over national laws and hence Partner States should not use their sovereignty to derail the integration agenda”.

Following this keynote, a panel discussed the challenges and opportunities of creating a legal community for EAC law with each other and the audience. The panel was chaired by  Dr. Armin Cuyvers, co-chair of the LEAC, and further consisted of Prof. Kennedy Gastorn (University of Dar Es Salaam Law School), Leonard Obura Aloo (Lecturer at University of Nairobi), mr. Dieudonne Bashirahishizeand (Vice President of the East African Law Society), and Dr. Elvis Mbembe Binda (Lecturer at University of Rwanda). The lively discussion centered on the essential questions on the creation of a legal community, the political commitment of the Partner States to the education of the next generation of EAC citizens, as well as several other key legal issues including the EPA between the EU and the EAC, the introduction of a single currency in the EAC, the concept of sovereignty and regional integration, the pace of EAC integration, and the sad developments in Burundi.

After the panel, Prof. Tom Ottervanger, Professor of EU Law at Leiden University and founder of the Leiden Centre for East African Law presented the first comprehensive textbook on EAC law to Dr Bukuku, who received it on behalf of the EAC Secretary General. The book, published by the international publishing house of Brill, will be made available in hardcopy but will also be made available as an open access resource. Consequently, the book will be available to all, globally, for free in digital form. A major achievement made possible by generous support from the European Union, the global law firm of Allen & Overy, and the Europa Institute of Leiden Law School.

The conference was closed with a riveting closing speech by Hon. Prof. Otieno-Odek, Judge of the Kenyan Court of Appeal and professor of law at the Nairobi Law School. As one of the pioneers of EAC law, he recalled the days where he was, and had to be, the book on EAC law himself, as he had to convince his students of the importance of EAC law for the future. Now, almost twenty years later, he was very pleased that there now was an actual book to bring together expertise on EAC law. He was equally pleased, and relieved, that his recommendations to his early students had proven correct: EAC law is the field of the future, as East Africa continues to integrate, offering opportunities for states, business, citizens and lawyers alike!

The conference was then followed by a reception for high level guests at the EAC headquarters, where guests joined  Ambassador Roeland van de Geer and EAC Deputy Secretary General Dr. Enos Bukuku in a toast in honor of Europe day, the close collaboration between the EAC and the EU, and the successful event of the day.

For further information on the event or the activities of the LEAC, please contact Prof. Tom Ottervanger, founder of the LEAC, or Dr. A. Cuyvers or visit the LEAC website.

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