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Burundi; Rwanda: Possible Switch of Legal Tradition

(June 4, 2009) Rwanda/Burundi: Possible Switch of Legal Tradition

It was reported on June 2, 2009, that as part of establishing an East African political federation, which will also include the rest of the East African Community (EAC) Member States – Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, whose legal systems are based on the common law tradition – Rwanda and Burundi may have to switch their legal tradition from a civil law to a common law system. EAC Deputy General in charge of political federation, Beatrice Kiraso, indicated that the plan is for the federation to adopt the common law tradition, and it is essential that all the member states do so. Kiraso added that “public and private institutions [of Member States] will have to be unified.” (Robert Mugabe, EAC Wants Rwanda, Burundi to Adopt Common Law System, THE NEW TIMES, June 2, 2009, available at The President of the Rwandan High Court and a principle judge at the East Africa Court of Justice, Johnston Busigye, noted in an interview that the Rwandan legal system has been undergoing reforms since 2001 that are geared towards making the switch to the common law tradition. (Id.)

The difference in the legal traditions of EAC Member States is due to the fact that their legal systems were modeled after the systems of their colonizers. While the Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ugandan legal systems were modeled after the U.K. common law system, the Rwandan and Burundi systems were heavily based on the Belgian civil law system. (Id.)