Dr Shein made the call when addressing the 7th Annual Conference of the East African Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (EAMJA), held in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Based on the theme ‘Land and Environment for sustainable Economic Growth in East Africa,’ the conference brought on board more than 400 judges, magistrates, jurists, legal practitioners and other civil society stakeholders from EAC member states.
He told the delegates from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan that this year’s theme is relevant as it is linked with existing policies and strategies pursued by East African countries with regard to land-use planning and management.
Dr Shein said by working together the judges will always be well equipped and positioned to promote the rule of law as it is instrumental in efforts to pursue economic integration.
“This should go hand in hand with the wish to harmonize judicial practice and procedures in East Africa. In this regard, it is obvious that the association has a paramount role,” he said.
The Isles’ leader said East African countries, like many other countries in the world, are facing serious environmental challenges which need to be addressed to reduce their impacts on our social and economic development.
In all the member states, particular emphasis has been laid in promoting sustainable land use as well as protecting the local environment and biodiversity, he said.
“These two factors are the pre-requisites for achieving rapid and sustainable economic growth. The increase of population and advancement of technology has intensified competition in land use and its ownership.
“The demand for land for various social and economic activities has drastically increased in recent years, particularly for building houses, developing industries, agriculture, mining and infrastructure. Hence, land conflicts as well as challenges relating to environmental degradation have been so common,” he declared.
Traditionally such conflicts appeared between households and neighbouring communities relating to land rights and boundaries, he said, pointing out that at present conflicts also occur between indigenous people and investors, especially international companies seeking to invest in different sectors, including mining, agriculture and tourism.
“This kind of conflict may pose serious threat to the development and security of various communities in East Africa and many other Sub-Saharan countries. They have adverse impacts on the implementation of development plans, protection of the natural environment and on the general well-being of local populations. They need quick legal interventions to manage them. Therefore, at this time, the theme you have adopted sounds very significant.”
The judiciary has the supreme responsibility of safeguarding the rights of the people and therefore it is necessary for the people to be able to communicate effectively with various organs of the judiciary in seeking to protect their fundamental rights, Isles leader intoned.