They maybe both out of their Arusha-based offices, but this hasn’t stopped the former Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly and the just-retired Secretary General of the East African Community to hound each other in legal corridors.
The East African Court of Justice will hold an extraordinary session from Monday to July 29 to hear oral evidence in a case filed on December 10, 2014, by the impeached former EALA Speaker, Dr Margaret Zziwa, against the former EAC Secretary-General, Dr Richard Sezibera.
In the case, the former EALA Speaker is complaining against certain actions and decisions of the East African Legislative Assembly and its Committee on Legal Rules and Privileges which pertained to investigations against her and consequential impeachment motion.
Hearing of the case could not take off in September 2015 because of a preliminary objection raised by the then Secretary General on grounds that the applicant and her witnesses could not give oral evidence without special leave of the Assembly under section 20(1) of the Privileges Act.
The First Instance Division of the Court by its ruling of 6th November, 2015 overruled the Preliminary objection on ground that it was not open to it to find that the evidence that Honourable Zziwa and her witnesses would adduce would be an affront to Section 20 of the Privileges Act, without first hearing them.
The Secretary General being dissatisfied by the said ruling appealed to the Appellate Division of the Court which by its ruling of May 27, 2016, dismissed the Appeal and found that the First Instance Division did not commit any error of law in arriving at its conclusion.
On June 24, 2016, the First Instance Division dismissed Margaret Zziwa’s application to have the Court issue her and her witnesses Witness Summons to attend court and give evidence and/or produce documents.
The court held that the applicant and her witnesses had voluntarily chosen to give evidence in support of the case and therefore do not require summons to attend Court.
On whether the Applicant and her witnesses can lawfully be compelled to produce documents within the purview of Section 20 of the EALA (Powers and Privileges) Act 2003, the Court held that even if it could issue summons to voluntary witnesses, the summons cannot be used to circumvent, defeat or act as an appeal or review of the Assembly’s decision made under Section 20 rejecting her application to have the witnesses testify and produce certain documents.
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