Human rights and public interest litigation in East Africa: A bird’s eye view.
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Despite the growing use of public interest litigation (PIL) as a mechanism for pursuing the goals of social justice and enhanced democratic constitutionalism, there is scant comparative analysis of the phenomenon among the three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. In tandem with the regional East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to which all three countries are members, PIL is growing at a significant pace and has the potential to impact the structures of governance, accountability, and equality in the region. This Article analyzes the manner in which this type of litigation has grown, and assesses the extent to which it has affected socioeconomic and political conditions in the region. Using the analogy of cement and its unique properties, the examination is conducted against the backdrop of the constitutional developments that have taken place in East Africa over the last twenty years, starting with the promulgation of a new constitution for Uganda in 1995 (aging cement), considering the 2010 ‘transformative constitution’ in Kenya (setting cement), and engaging with the current debate over the introduction of a new constitutional instrument in Tanzania, where the cement is undergoing a “remixing.” Does PIL offer a serious and sustainable antidote to the three countries’ experiences of authoritarian rule, judicial lethargy, and community marginalization?