Arusha, Tanzania – The EALA Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges (LRP) undertook an oversight activity to assess and evaluate the process of harmonisation of national laws in the East African Community. Between 23-25 February, the LRP Committee assessed and reviewed the activities of the Sub-Committee on the Approximation of National Laws.
In addition, the Committee engaged in discussions with experts and the Office of the Counsel of the Community in order to examine the process of harmonisation of national laws to ascertain its effectiveness and challenges. Subsequently, the Committee made recommendations on how the process of the harmonisation of laws can be improved.
During the oversight activity, the Committee was informed that Partner States are at different stages of implementation of the directives of the Council of Ministers on harmonisation of national laws. It further observed that Partner States were slow when it comes to amending laws to comply with the directive of the Council of Ministers pertaining to harmonisation of national laws.
The activity was followed by an engaging debate. Among key contributions, Hon. Judith Pareno said the activity of harmonising and approximating laws was a Treaty matter and said it was important for the Community to have a system of the laws to harmonise. Hon. Shyrose Bhanji remarked that slow implementation of harmonising laws was retrogressive for integration. She asked the House to request the Council of Ministers to share with the Assembly a matrix showing progress of implementation.
In its report, approved by EALA in March 2016, the Committee cited a number of challenges including frequent changes in the membership of the Task Force, conflicting commitments of members of the Task Force as well as different legal systems. In addition, the slow pace of implementation of the harmonisation agenda at national level and the lack of monitoring mechanisms to ensure Partner States comply with the adopted approximation proposals are also cited.
Article 126 (2)(b) of the EAC Treaty provides that “Partner States shall through their appropriate national institutions take all necessary steps to harmonise all their national laws appertaining to the Community”. Harmonisation of national laws is one of the critical steps required to facilitate regional integration.
The Council of Ministers established a Sub-Committee on the Approximation of national Laws to spearhead the process of harmonisation of national laws in the EAC context. The Sub-Committee is headed by the Law Reform Commissions of the EAC Partner States and it works under the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs. The Sub-Committee on the Approximation of National Laws has considered a number of laws including laws governing contracts, immigration, labour and employment, insolvency, sale of goods and intellectual property. The Sub-Committee made specific recommendations on the areas that each Partner State is required to work on so as to harmonise the national laws.