The slow implementation of some legal instruments within COMESA bloc is delaying advanced regional integration.
The delay in domestication of the instruments at national level has hit the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite free trade area agreement, despite it being short of three instruments of ratification for it to come into force.
“COMESA has over the years passed numerous legal instruments and protocols, regrettably some of them have not yet been domesticated at national level by member states to allow for full implementation of the commitments,” said Stanley Kakubo, Zambia Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
“The slowed signing and ratification of the legal instruments is unfortunately hampering efforts to advance the programme of integrating the COMESA region, this prevents member states from unlocking benefits embedded in the legal instruments,” he added.
“We can only successfully implement COMESA programs once we all domesticate the instruments at national level.”
Speaking during the 26th meeting of COMESA Ministers of Justice and Attorney Generals, Chileshe Kapwepwe, Secretary General COMESA noted need for development of necessary community laws and policies to support and validate the integration.
The recently held joint meeting of Ministers responsible for immigration and ministers of labour for instance, noted the need for COMESA to start addressing issues of social security and portability of skills, recognition of prior learning in the cross-border movement of skilled and semi-skilled labour when such personnel become established and take up residence in a foreign country of destination.
“This necessitates developing regional frameworks and policies that will facilitate rights of establishment and residence which is central to COMESA Protocol on Free Movement.”
Meanwhile, the COMESA Court of Justice will temporarily relocate its Registry Operations from Khartoum, Sudan owing to the current political instability in the country, which has affected its operations.
President of the Court, Lady Justice Lombe Chibesakunda expressed the Court’s empathy by the turn of events in Sudan, one of the founding Member States of COMESA.
“Unfortunately, the situation as it stands now underscores the urgency of considering alternative measures to ensure the Court continues delivering on its mandate,” she said in her address to the meeting.
The Court has been based in Khartoum, since 2014 pursuant to a 2003 COMESA Decision of the Heads of State, which chose Khartoum, as the Permanent Seat of the Court.
As the judicial organ of COMESA, the Court adjudicates and arbitrates on, among other matters, unfair trade practices, interpretation of Treaty (Protocols and other legislative acts) and ensures that Member States uniformly implement and comply with agreed decisions.
The Court has two divisions with a total of 12 Judges all holding high judicial office in their respective countries. The lower Division, known as the Court of First Instance, has seven judges, while the upper division is the Appellate and has five Judges.
Decisions of the Court on the interpretation of the provisions of the COMESA Treaty have precedence over decisions of national courts and are binding on all COMESA Member States.