The East African Law Society (EALS) has criticized the decision of the National Assembly of Kenya to prevent Rwandan and Burundian lawyers from practicing in the country, describing the decision as a force hindering the unity and integration of the region.
EALS said the ‘unfortunate’ development means Kenya’s blocking of the implementation of the East African Community (EAC) common market, which provides for the free movement of labor. and services in the block.
“Our attention has been drawn to recent press articles regarding the ongoing debate and public consultations by the National Assembly of Kenya on the changes in the law that have had effect on Rwandan and Burundian nationals as capable lawyers. to practice in Kenya, ”read the statement issued by the body. .
The statement added that the decision to block lawyers presented a challenge to the desire of the regional body whose integration has been historically difficult, citing the enactment of legal instruments to curb it.
“Our legal instruments provide, inter alia, for the removal of restrictions on the movement of labor services as well as the commitment of Member States to mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications (including legal qualifications)”, added the press release signed by Bernard Oundo, the president. of the society.
The EALS then refuted Kenya’s claims that its nationals are not allowed to practice in Rwanda.
“Kenya argues that its national lawyers have not been granted the corresponding privileges to practice in the Republics of Rwanda and Burundi. This is, however, an ill-informed position as Kenyan lawyers are licensed and a good number of them have practiced in the Republics of Rwanda and Burundi. read the statement in part.
Both countries have provisions in their laws to provide for recognition of foreign lawyers as below, the statement said.
“Therefore, Kenya’s decision to ban Rwandan lawyers is backward, not in line with the spirit of integration and does not motivate the acceleration of the conclusion of the relevant MRAs.”
“The EALS therefore calls on the government of Kenya to meet its obligations under the EAC treaty and related protocols, show leadership and lead the movement towards a fully integrated EAC,” the statement noted.
The Rwandan bar speaks out
Contacted for comment, Moise Nkundabarashi, the president of the Rwanda Bar Association, praised the solidarity expressed by the regional body, saying they had also raised similar concerns.
“We had filed the mutual recognition agreement with the umbrella organization (EALS), we hired their attorney general and therefore berating them about it is something we are proud of,” Nkundabarashi commented.
He added that their decision was contrary to the treaty providing for the free movement of services and labor, noting that once nothing is done, the case will be taken to a higher level.
Kenya’s National Assembly has banned Rwandan and Burundian lawyers from practicing in the country since the start of November 22, filing allegations of no reciprocity agreement that were refuted by the Rwandan body of lawyers.
Another assertion from Kenya was the lack of harmonization between the legal professional studies of the two countries, where Rwandan legal education implores the civil law tradition while Kenya uses the common law tradition.
However, the East African Community allows both systems as they are internationally recognized.
As a result of this decision, the Kenyan assembly faced more criticism, both from inside and outside.