The President of East Africa Law Society, Mr James Mwamu. Lawyers within East Africa will soon start practising across borders without restrictions. photo.
Nairobi. Lawyers within East Africa will soon start practising across borders without restrictions.
Law societies in the region have already drafted an agreement to this effect, which is awaiting approval at their annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda this week, East African Law Society President (EALS) James Mwamu said.
The Mutual Recognition Agreement for Advocates (MRA) in the East African Community (EAC) will see the countries agree on the same qualifications for legal practitioners. Mr Mwamu said it took them over 10 years to come up with an agreement that could soon become a guide to legal practice in the region.
“The main challenge was bureaucracy within governments and fears that one country may dominate the practice if lawyers are allowed to operate freely across borders,” he said.
“There was also the problem of the different standards of admission for law students and the fact that Rwanda and Burundi have a different legal system from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania because of the French influence.”
The Protocol on the establishment of the EAC Common Market guarantees free movement of goods and services between partner states.
Stiff competition by international law firms, which have clients from Africa or have clients facing charges in courts of African countries has provided the impetus for local lawyers from the region to join hands and stake a claim on the lucrative jobs. “Most companies such as banks and supermarket chains, among others, have their presence in the member states and this makes more sense now to have lawyers to work across borders,” Mr Mwamu said.
“Discovery of oil and other minerals in Africa has given foreign firms an advantage as all companies involved in exploration are foreign-owned.” (NMG)