By Spy Uganda Correspondent
With rival military forces locked in deadly battle, East Africa’s top trade court is temporarily abandoning its longtime headquarters in Sudan.
The ongoing conflict in Sudan necessitated the relocation of the judicial body of Africa’s largest economic bloc, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
As one of the bloc’s strongest pillars, the COMESA Court of Justice has been in operation for the past three decades, since COMESA’s formation in 1994. For approximately a decade now, the Court has made Khartoum, Sudan, its permanent seat.
The conflict between the two rival generals, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti), led to a full-blown war between the armed groups under their command—the Sudanese Armed Forces and its rival Rapid Support Forces, respectively.
Since the war engulfed Sudan in April 2023, several thousand people have died, infrastructure has been demolished, and landmark places have been destroyed, among them is a landmark building by the Nile River that went ablaze a week ago.
The Court’s operations were affected due to the “current political instability in the country,” prompting the COMESA Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General to come up with the decision to relocate it to Zambia at their 26th meeting on September 22, 2023.
A press release from the COMESA Secretariat on September 29, 2023, reveals that the decision was made after the Court submitted a request at the Ministers meeting for relocation to Zambia, where the COMESA Secretariat is based.
The 21 member states of the COMESA bloc in Africa include Ethiopia, the largest member in the group with about 20 percent of the total population and nearly 15 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product).
The COMESA Court of Justice is among the 12 institutions under COMESA. Among the 12, the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
While requesting consideration of relocating her office to Zambia from the Ministers, President of the Court, Lady Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, said the situation in Sudan “underscores the urgency of considering alternative measures to ensure the Court continues delivering on its mandate,” according to reports.
Having a total of 12 judges, all with high judicial office in their respective countries, the Court is divided into two divisions. The higher division consists of five judges, and the lower division has seven judges.
Arbitrating unfair trade practices, interpreting protocols and other legislation, as well as ensuring compliance with agreed-upon decisions by member states are among the major activities of the Court.