By Mukose Arnold Anthony
Three Ugandan citizens who had gone to file a reference against the Government and the Secretary General of the East African community, challenging the former’s directive to its citizens to abruptly switch to the new international EAC passport, were on Tuesday stranded at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) Sub- Registry because it was under lock and key.
Norman Tumuhimbise, Mukose Arnold and Youth Line Forum Ltd through their Advocate, led by Eron Kiiza of Kiiza & Mugisha Advocates, filed a reference opposing the directive by the Ugandan government ordering its nationals to switch from the ordinary passport to the regional e-passports.
Though the trio reached the registry at around 10:45am but by 1pm, the offices were still closed on allegations that the only personnel at this office only identified as Simon was on study leave doing exams at Law Development Center.
These youthful Ugandans have decided to drag the Secretary General of the East African Communality and the government of Uganda on 8 grounds allegedly contravening several principles and charter which are most on legal.
In their affidavits, the trio allege that by the mere fact that the heads of states of the EAC states EAC, without any legal backing and regulatory frame-work, directed that partner States begin issuing the new international EAC passports, this contravened the principles of equality, accountability, transparency, variable-geometry, subsidiarity rule of law, good governance and democracy enshrined in Articles 6(d), 7(d), and 8(c) of the charter.
They further allege that the Government issuance and publication of the impugned directive requiring Ugandans to stop using national passports by January 1st 2019, and requiring them to pay “expensively” for the same, without any meaningful public consultations and/or participation, is in breach of the fundamental principles of the charter.
Further, they allege that different member states are charging varying fees for the same passport which defeats the primary goal of integration. Currently, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are charging a fee of Ksh. 4550, Ush250, 000/= and Tsh. 50,000/= respectively.
In light of the above, they pray that the regional court suspends the implementation of the exercise until the East African Community comes up with a legal frame-work to streamline the issuance of passports.
To also declare that the decision by the government of Uganda requiring its nationals both at home and abroad to switch to the said passport in a short time without meaningful consultations was illegal.
Speaking to the applicants at the Supreme Court where the East African Court of Justice Uganda registry is located, the trio said that this directive is unjust, unfair, illegal and worthy to be challenged.
“How can you order a Ugandan who has just got a passport for 10 years to again pay another 250,000/=Ush which she/he hadn’t budgeted for, this is real theft atleast they would talk of replacement at either no cost or with a small amounts on addition to the previous payment’’ Mr. Norman Tumuhimbise noted.
“This non-uniformed fee is like telling Ugandans from different parts of the country pay different fee due to their locality for example, those from Gulu to pay high, in central to pay less and may be in eastern affair fee, as its being exhibited by different member states to charge differently is in itself illegal” Mr. Mukose fumed.
“How can the government answer a question of a Ugandan who has just gotten himself a working permit of 3 years and you’re telling him to again come back home in 2years, re-apply and reprocess the documents for his job, is this applicable” Tumuhimbise added.
“ The Applicants are ready to file the suit even if it means going to the court headquarters in Arusha if the sub-registry in Uganda is not ready to receive the same, but one would wonder why the registry is staffed with one person. It is understaffed”, wondered Simon Peter Esomu, one of the lawyers to the trio.