The Burundian lawyer Dieudonné Bashirahishize has been elected Vice President of the East African Law Society (EALS), during the 19th Annual Conference in Kigali on 15 November 2014. -By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse
Dieudonné Bashirahishize is an active member of the Burundi Bar Association. He graduated in the Law faculty at the University of Burundi in 2008. While at University, he was President of the Rumuri Students Association (ASR). “In 2007, I was one of founding members and President of the Student Association ‘Forum Inter-Universitaire de la Jeunesse pour la Paix dans les Régions des Grand Lacs’, an association that gathers students from Burundi, Rwanda and DRC, with the intention of promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region.” Bashirahishize was admitted to the Burundi Bar Association on 14 November 2008, and registered as a lawyer on 19 January 2009. Since then, he is a dynamic lawyer and human rights activist. “We work to promote human rights and the principles of democracy in the East African Community (EAC)”, he says, when discussing his recent appointment. “We are involved in advocacy so that commitments made by EAC partner states in the treaty, as well as human rights and constitutional rules are respected.”
What do you plan to do during your mandate?
“I plan to advocate ardently for full integration of all EAC Member Countries. The presidency is in charge of regional integration, I am responsible for the support; to accompany countries that hesitate about full integration into the community. Burundi has recently declared to reconsider its EAC membership because it was not invited to meetings on the Northern Corridor. I want to avoid that Burundi pulls back, because we have a clear interest in EAC integration.”
Why do you think you were elected?
I think that my colleagues have chosen me because I am very passionate about EALS’s activities. They considered my commitment and active participation in EALS.” “To be elected Vice President of a regional association is a great honor for me and for the Burundi Bar Association. It provides us with a great platform where we can freely treat all issues related to human rights and democratic principles.
“The Presidency of the Association is organized by rotation. Last year, the President was a Kenyan while the Vice president was Rwandan. Now, the presidency is led by a Tanzanian and the Vice President is Burundian. We have a two year mandate. All member states are represented in the Executive Committee. During the Conference, members of the Burundi Bar Association presented me as the candidate to be approved by the General Meeting.
What are the main concerns of the EALS?
“EALS is working with the East African Community Legislative Assembly (EALA) to ensure the adoption of laws allowing and protecting EAC lawyers working in any EAC country. We are working in close collaboration with the EALA so that lawyers from Burundi can work freely in any EAC country.
“The EALS is also concerned with checking if the EAC treaty is fully respected in all countries and taking action against serious law violations. If an EAC Member State violates the EAC treaty or human right laws, we act as mediator with the EAC Secretary-General. Our role is to observe and identify issues concerning the advancement, promotion and protection of human rights of all people in East Africa. For instance, we are actively involved in the case of Isidore Rufyikiri. The former President of the Burundi Bar Association was replaced by the Burundian government for allegedly starting a revolt. The EALS published a declaration stating he was unjustly punished. Rufyikiri is disbarred and restrained from leaving Burundi. His case is transferred to the East African Court of Justice.
The association is also concerned with the harmonization of regional law. We must ensure that regional law and national law from EAC countries are not contradictory.”
The East African Law Society (EALS) is the regional Bar Association of East Africa, formed in 1995. The Headquarter is in Tanzania. The EALS has over 10 000 individual members and includes six national Bar associations: the Law Society of Kenya, Tanganyika Law Society from Tanzania, Uganda Law Society, Zanzibar Law Society , Rwanda Bar Association and Burundi Bar Association. The EALS work is promoting good governance and rule of law in the East African region. The EALS is also a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICTtoP) in which leaders of every country solemnly promised to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.