On 17 July 2020, Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace) provided food and non-food items to 70 teenage mothers to help them cope with COVID-19 effects they are currently facing alongside with their babies. This relief activity is a helping hand to teenage mothers to whom iPeace provides free legal aid services. This activity started with 50 teenage mothers identified as most vulnerable by local authorities in Muhima and Gisozi sectors (Kigali). Each of the beneficiaries received about 60 kilos of various items including sugar, salt, rice, beans, maize flour, porridge flour, cooking oil, face masks, bar soaps, baby diapers, female hygiene pads to name but a few.
Nzamukosha Jeannette, one of the beneficiaries, was very happy to receive this support. She said “I was impregnated by a boy who promised to buy me a cell phone. He did not give it to me and denied that he did know me. Ever since, I am struggling alone to raise up my daughter. I don't have a job and I live on petty chores. The outbreak of COVID-19 has strongly affected my life, and I was afraid I could lose my child because of hunger. But I am very happy that iPeace has thought about us. These items are most welcome, timely and will help us a lot”.
On her hand, the officer in charge of social affairs at Gisozi Sector, commended iPeace for selecting their sector amongst other different sectors in Kigali for this relief activity. She added that this action is a huge support to the efforts of the Government of Rwanda in mitigating the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on poor and vulnerable people. She took that opportunity to urge the beneficiaries to make good use of the given items in the best interest of their kids.
This relief activity is carried out under the framework of iPeace's Rapid Response to Covid-19 Project in partnership with GIZ-Rwanda. According to Mr. Paulin Muhozi, the Country Director of iPeace, COVID-19 has been having negative impacts on the entire World, and poor teenage mothers are at higher risks together with their babies. He said “Besides the free legal services that iPeace provides to vulnerable teenage mothers, it is paramount and human to think of their economic situation in these tough times of the pandemic. That is the reason we are now offering these items to the mothers to support themselves and their children in terms of food and sanitation.”
The distribution in Kigali comes a week before a similar activity targeting an additional group of 20 teenage mothers in Gisagara District.
On 1st July 2020, Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace) notified the Attorney General of Uganda about a case this organization filed on 29 June 2020 before the East African Court of Justice against the Attorney General of Uganda for denying lawyers trained in Rwanda from enrolling and practicing law in Uganda. This case stems from the decision rendered by the High Court of Uganda on 13 may 2020 where M. Andrew Bataamwe was ruled ineligible for enrollment as an advocate in Uganda because he holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Rwanda, considered as a country practicing civil law system.
According to Dr. Elvis Mbembe Binda, the Legal Representative of iPeace, this ruling is based on a legal provision of the Ugandan Advocates (Amendment) Act, 2002 that is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community. He said: “Through the Treaty and the Common Market Protocol, EAC Partner States including Uganda committed to mutually recognize the academic and professional qualifications granted, experience obtained, requirements met, licenses or certification granted, in other Partner States as a way to facilitate the free movement of workers from one country to another. In relation to legal professionals, the Republic of Uganda committed to remove all restrictions in its laws by 2010. Therefore, any provision in Ugandan laws subjecting legal practice in Uganda to the obtaining of a degree or diploma from Uganda or from a ‘Common Law’ country is a violation of the EAC Law”.
Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan are member states of the East African Community. The Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community promotes the free movement of goods, persons, workers, services and capital between the partner states without any kind of discrimination. But the implementation of this Treaty and its protocols has been encountering resistance from Partner States since a while following tensions between some of them.
For iPeace, this case is filed within its public interest litigation framework that the organization uses to advance human rights and equality, or raise issues of broad public concern. iPeace considers this case as a way to remind Partner states their treaty obligations and to ensure that EAC laws are effectively implemented across the Community for the benefit of all East Africans. Although this case is about the freedom of establishment of lawyers, the ruling of the East African Court of Justice will have an incidence on the implementation of the free movement of workers in general and on the enjoyment of related freedoms and rights enshrined in the EAC Treaty that many Partner States tend to overlook.
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is a treaty-based judicial body of the East African Community tasked to ensure adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the East African Community Treaty of 1999. It is headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania.
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