By Spy Uganda
Kampala: The East African Court of Justice has summoned the Attorney General of Rwanda and a Ugandan lawyer Steven Kalali to appear in court for the hearing of the border closure case.
According to the summons, the Registrar of East African Court of Justice Yufnalis Okubo is summoning both parties to appear for the hearing which will take place on September 14, 2020, via video conferencing.
“Please take note that if there is no appearance on your part, the court will proceed to hear the case and make necessary orders in your absence not withstanding”, reads the summons in part.
The notice further indicates that the parties will be appearing before a three-member panel of Judges comprising the Principal Judge Monica Mugenyi, Audace Ngiye and Dr Charles Nyawello.
It should be remembered that February 27, 2019, Rwanda closed its borders blocking heavy trucks from Uganda to allegedly expedite construction works at the Rwandan side of the Gatuna border.
Following the closure, Ugandan lawyer Kalali sued the government of Rwanda in the East African Court of Justice urging that the border closure contravenes the East African Community Treaty and the Common Market Protocol which allows free movement of people, goods and services across the bloc. Rwanda is a signatory to the treaty.
In March 2020, the East African Court Of Justice dismissed an Application filed by the Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, seeking for extension of time for the filing of an additional affidavit for the case.
Court struck out the Affidavit in support of the Application that it is fatally defective having been sworn by the Counsel representing the Attorney General of Rwanda who has a personal conduct in the case and which is against the principles of the Court.
In July 2019, a coalition of East African citizen groups sued Uganda and Rwanda in a regional court for financial losses resulting from a border dispute between the feuding nations.
Trade has been severely disrupted since February 2019 when Rwanda abruptly closed the border with its northern neighbour, severing a major economic land route used daily by merchants and business people on both sides.
The closure followed months of rising acrimony between Rwanda Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, former allies turned foes who have exchanged public accusations of spying in each other’s territory.
Apart from a brief interlude in June the frontier has remained shut, damaging the local economies of both countries reliant on cross-border trade to survive.
Three civil society groups, on behalf of communities along the border, said they had filed a complaint with the East African Court of Justice demanding reparations from Uganda and Rwanda for their losses.
The court, in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, was set up to rule on matters of the East African Community (EAC) — a six-member bloc including Rwanda and Uganda as well as Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan.
Sheila Kawamara-Mishambi, executive director of the East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, one of the complainants, said, the attorney generals of both countries had been served with court papers “over the continued arbitrary border closure”.
The closure has “far reaching effects on the lives and livelihoods of the business community, and has caused social and emotional distress among the local people, anguish and dislocation of families, deaths among others”, it continued.
The coalition said it had received statements from 400 citizens affected by the blockade, and demanded that they be “adequately compensated” for their losses.
Analysts say the spat between Kagame and Museveni risks not only economic integration but also stability in the strife-prone region.