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Ugandan Seeks to Block DRC Membership to EAC Over Besigye’s Detained Aide

Lawyer Kyomuhendo wants DRC EAC membership blocked until Mugumya is freed

Ugandan human rights lawyer, Adam Kyomuhendo has petitioned a regional court seeking to block the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, into the East African Community.

Kyomuhendo accuses the DRC of human rights violations of Ugandans, including the arrest and continued detention of Samuel Mugumya, who was a close aide to opposition supremo Dr Kizza Besigye, and dozens of others.

Mugumya has been in Ndolo Military Prison in Kinshasa following his arrest near the Ugandan border in 2014.

Then the DRC authorities said Mugumya and four others has been found with huge sums of money in foreign currencies, as well as sensitive documents.

The Ugandan army said at the time that Uganda wouldn’t intervene because Mugumya together with Aggrey Kamukama, Steven Mugisha, Nathan Bright and Joseph Kamugisha had been arrested for allegedly carrying out subversive activities in the DRC.

Uganda’s ministry of foreign affairs said they had no extradition treaty with the DRC to enable a negotiation for his repatriation.  

Other sources say more than 120 Ugandans are detained in the same prison without trial.

Advocate Kyomuhendo last year went to the EAC Court of Justice to block the admission of the DRC as the seventh member, saying its admission would be a violation of the EAC treaty.

Now, Mr Kyomuhendo is seeking “interim orders restraining the Summit of the EAC Heads of State and Government, or any organ as may be delegated by the Summit upon taking any decision concerning the Application of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to join the Community as the 7th Member of the Community until the hearing and determination of the main Case (Reference No. 11 of 2020),” reads his petition in part.

He has already served Uganda’s Attorney General and on Thursday, the First Instance Division of the court allowed the applicant to serve the Attorneys General in the Partner States and the Secretary General in a matter seeking Court’s interim orders.

He will now therefore, serve the other six parties (Respondents) that is the AGs of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and the Secretary General of EAC and await court to fix the matter for hearing in the next session.

The main Case is seeking Court orders to permanently stop the EAC Summit of the EAC Heads of State and Government of the Partner States and the Secretary General of the EAC from admitting the DRC to EAC.

“The DRC has been illegally and without due trial or process holding Ugandan activist Samuel William Mugumya and more than 35 other Ugandans for more than 6 years contrary to the fundamental and human rights principles for the establishment of the EAC as envisaged under the Treaty,” he asserts.  

The case further alleges that to admit the DRC into the Community in light of those fundamental human rights breaches would be to flagrantly violate the EAC Treaty’s conditions for admission of a new member.

“As a pre-condition for admission, the Summit must verify and ascertain that such new member accepts the Community as set out in the Treaty and adheres to the universally accepted principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, social justice and observes human and people’s rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights,” he says.

Asked about what drove him to take this decision amidst human rights violations committed in most partner states, Kyomuhendo told URN that he is mainly seeking for justice for Mugumya and others like him jailed in the DRC.

“Six years is a lot of time without trial and no one is showing any concern for the young men, and by the way, the government said there are 35 people, but the number is in hundreds of Ugandans rotting there,” he added. 

He also wants the process to ensure that the victims are compensated on release, before the consideration of the admission of the DRC, otherwise, it should be banned permanently.

The EAC members are upbeat that the admission of DRC, with an estimated 105 million people and a GDP of $46 billion, will boost intra-regional trade, and make the EAC a more competitive market.

Earlier this month, a committee of experts was commissioned by the EAC to study the possibility of the DRC and her viability as a member to the EAC.

The assessment report made will inform both the Council of Minister and the Heads of State Summit on their decision about the DRC’s application.


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