Arusha. The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) yesterday dismissed an application filed by a Tanzanian against the East African Community (EAC) member states signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
The regional court refused to grant an order restraining four partner states, including Tanzania, which have not signed the EAC-EU-EPA trade arrangement from penning the deal.
Equally, the court under the Deputy Principal Judge, Isaac Lenaola, failed to restrain Kenya and Rwanda, which had signed it, from continuing with the subsequent procedures.
The court also refused to direct the seventh respondent, the EAC, in an application filed by Castro Pius Shirima, to withdraw forthwith from any negotiations initiated with the EU.
Apart from Tanzania, three other countries which have declined to sign the EPA agreement are Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan.
The latter joined the EAC only last year and was not involved in negotiations that date back to 2002.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the deal in September last year, roughly around the time the negotiations were concluded. Kenya has even ratified it and has been pressing for fellow states in the bloc to follow suit.
Mr Shirima had sought the court’s order that would bar the EAC member states and the secretary general of the community from signing the EPA deal on grounds that signing the agreement was in contravention of the EAC Treaty.
He further argued that the EAC bloc would suffer considerably by nodding to EPA, noting that agriculture - the backbone of the region’s economies - would be affected because EAC farmers would be exposed to unfair competition. Mr Shirima also opposed EPA from different fronts in the region, including the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), which has on several occasions declared that the EPA framework be subjected to respective National Parliaments for approval.
Nevertheless, the court dismissed the application, stressing that there was no irreparable economic loss and serious violation of the EAC Treaty found. The applicant had sought the court order, which would bar states which have not inked the EPA deal not to do so.
“When pressed to expound on the irreparable economic loss and the violation of rights that the applicant stood to suffer, he was unable to make the link between the impugned signing of the EPA and the alleged irreparable harm that the said signing could cause”, the judge said.
He added: “In the circumstances, therefore, it is our view that the applicant has failed to establish that he would suffer any irreparable harm that could not be compensated by an award of damages if the injunctive order sought is not granted”.
Tanzania, which was represented by Mr Mark Mulwambu, submitted that the applicant had no cause of action against the fifth respondent.
He also said that Tanzania has not signed the EPA deal and has not indicated that they intend to sign the agreement, stressing that the allegations by the applicant do not have anything substantive and therefore a waste of time and abuse of process and should be dismissed with costs.