Image credit: International IDEA
As the COVID-19 crisis takes a devastating toll on lives and livelihoods across the continent, its effects on the democratic development of African countries become fundamental. While much attention has been paid to the question of its consequences for democratic and electoral processes, its impact on constitutionalism and the rule of law in these states has received relatively less attention. It is against this backdrop, that International IDEA is organizing, in partnership with the Department for Political Affairs (DPA) of the African Union Commission (AUC), a three-hour webinar around the theme: “The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in East Africa.”
All East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda), adopted some sort of state of emergency to respond to the COVID-19 crisis—some harder than others. These measures varied from school closures to isolation and quarantine policies, health screenings in airports and border crossings, international flight suspensions, domestic travel restrictions, limits on public gatherings, public service closure, military deployment, among others. The question remains, to what extent are Constitutionalism and Rule of Law standards at risk from COVID-19?
The objectives of the exchange will be, from a retrospective and prospective practical analysis, to inspire decision-makers and feed the thinking of experts, academics, researchers, journalists, and citizens around this theme. More specifically, the discussion will consider not only the challenges in terms of socio-political dynamics induced by the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in East Africa, but also the opportunities it presents for their democratic development.
The webinar will be based on two premises. First, the need to go beyond the teleological approach of Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law to consider them from their ultimate goals, which are to guarantee respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, both in normal and in exceptional situations. Secondly, the adoption of a holistic perspective allowing consideration of not only civil and political rights, but also the economic and social rights of citizens in the context of the COVID-19 crisis in the countries concerned.
Issues to be discussed will include:
- Overview of State of Emergency Regulations—including their conformity with constitutional provisions as well as regional, continental and international norms and standards;
- Socio-economic impacts of State of Emergency Regulations;
- Impact of Emergency Regulations on access to basic public services, particularly health services/systems;
- Impact of Emergency Regulations on vulnerable groups – particularly women, youth, children/elderly, Refugees and IDPs;
- Impact of Emergency Regulations on State-Citizens relations; and
- Control of Executive under Emergency Regulations.
The webinar will take place on 11 June 2020, from 14:00 to 16:45, East Africa Time and accessible via a link that will be shared shortly.
It will be moderated by Professor Gilbert Khadiagala, Dr Maurice Engueleguele and Sharon Ndlovu, and will have the following panelists:
- H.E. Dr Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, former Vice President of the Republic of Uganda, Chairperson of the African Union Panel of the Wise and Co-Chairperson of FemWise.
- Ms Christina Kamili Ruhinda, Legal Practitioner,Tanzania, and member of FEMWISE.
- Dr Kabumba Busingye, Lecturer in Law, Human Rights and Peace - Centre (HURIPEC), Makerere University.
- Ms Elizabeth Mutunga, Head of Governance, Peace and Security, Secretariat of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
- Dr Winluck Wahui, Constitutional Expert, Kenya.