Ex-Sierra Leone president underscores role of courts in strengthening democracy

RETIRED Sierra Leonean Ernest Bai Koroma has reaffirmed the critical role of national and regional courts in strengthening the democratisation process and promoting good governance in Africa.

President Koroma said that regional courts such as the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) complement national courts in upholding the rule of law and the respect for human rights thereby sustaining the growth of democracy on the continent.

President Koroma said that in instances where people had lost faith in judicial systems, there were inherent risks for sustainable peace and stability.

The retired statesman said that strong judicial systems limit the risk of institutional and state capture by giving citizens alternatives for redress where they feel aggrieved, adding that credible judicial systems would advance the cause of democracy in Africa.

President Koroma urged the EACJ, the Arusha-based judicial arm of the East African Community (EAC), to stick to the law while interpreting the EAC Treaty and ensure that there is justice and fair play in handling cases filed before it.

The retired president was speaking in Arusha, Tanzania when he led a high-powered delegation comprising Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique, and Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia on a familiarisation tour of the EAC Headquarters.

The three leaders were among former Heads of State and Government, who were in Arusha to attend the Africa Drive for Democracy Conference (D4D) Elders Retreat and Annual Conference between Monday, 17th July to Thursday, 20th July, 2023. They were received at the EAC Headquarters by the Judge President of the EACJ, Justice Nestor Kayobera, on behalf of the EAC Secretary General, Hon (Dr) Peter Mathuki.

Speaking at the event, retired Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano emphasised the role of strong institutions, youths and women and good leadership in promoting democracy.

President Chissano said that courts were critical to combating corruption, promoting respect for human rights and acting as arbiters in conflicts and disputes.

On his part, former Ethiopian Prime Minister, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn hailed the role being played by the EAC and other regional economic blocs in the drive towards an integrated Africa, adding that multiple membership to various regional economic communities could undermine the spirit of speedy integration of the continent.

Mr Desalegn said that existing regional mechanisms including the EACJ should be properly funded to enable them to execute their mandates effectively.

Welcoming the three former Heads of State and Government, the EACJ Judge President Nestor Kayobera said that the EACJ said that the court is a stakeholder in matters concerning good governance across the region.

“Our role includes upholding the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, gender equality, and promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights as enshrined under Article 6(d) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community,” said Justice Kayobera.

Justice Kayobera said that under the EAC Treaty, Partner States undertook to abide by the fundamental principles that govern the achievement of the objectives of the Community and abstain from any measures likely to jeopardise the achievement of these objectives.

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