Kenyan lawyer calls for revival of SADC Tribunal

Kenyan lawyer calls for revival of SADC tribunal

NewsDay by Nkululeko Sibanda in Victoria Falls

August 16, 2019

Patrick Otieno Lumumba, a Kenyan lawyer and political commentator

OUTSPOKEN Kenyan lawyer and African political commentator, Patrick Otieno Lumumba has called for the revival of the SADC Tribunal which was disbanded by the regional bloc in 2012.

The tribunal was disbanded by the regional leaders at the behest of Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe. This followed a decision by former white commercial farmers to approach the court, seeking protection against their continued persecution by the government following their refusal to vacate land that government had grabbed from them.

SADC leaders at the time agreed to change the terms of reference of the commission, from being an appellant court to a body whose role would be to provide advisory services for the interpretation of the SADC Treaty and any other protocols that would need to be negotiated among member States.

Read part of the resolution that saw the demise of the once powerful tribunal:

“The summit resolved that the ministers of Justice and Attorneys-General should negotiate a new protocol, and the jurisdiction of the new tribunal to be reconstituted will be confined only to advisory interpretation of the SADC Treaty and any protocols that may be negotiated among members. In other words, the jurisdiction is going to be confined only to any disputes arising between member countries with respect to the interpretation of the SADC Treaty and any SADC protocols.”

In a wide-ranging interview in Victoria Falls recently, Lumumba said reviving the SADC Tribunal would give the SADC member States a platform through which to address a variety of challenges that afflict the region.

“I’m one who believes in African solutions to African problems,” he said.

“And I believe that the SADC Tribunal ought to be resuscitated and strengthened because it will give SADC member-States an opportunity to deal with some problems that are unique to SADC, without compromising the question of sovereignty that most of the countries in the bloc take pride about,” Lumumba added.

He said the tribunal, if correctly structured, would adequately address issues of concern to stakeholders in the region.

“I appreciate there are issues that can be dealt with by the regional bloc, but there are some issues that would require a body such as the tribunal to deal with as the body is able to rise above the issue of national sovereignty. So, in a single sentence, I support the issue of the revival of the SADC tribunal,” Lumumba said.

The erudite lawyer also said there was need for the African continent to strengthen its criminal courts such as the African Court of Human Rights, which is based in The Gambia.

“What we need is to energise these institutions such as the African Court of Human Rights and other such institutions. We have heard in the recent past, when African leaders have been arraigned before the International Criminal Court, complaints that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is targeting African leaders solely because they are African leaders.

“If we do not want such courts as the ICC targeting our African leaders, we must, as Africans, put in place our own courts where matters of concern to Africans will be heard. These courts must
not only be seen to be courts in just names but must be courts that should be able to deliver justice without fear or favour,” he said.