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Comesa courting new investments

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The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) is working towards improving investment opportunities in the region by offering better protection to the business community against any violations relating to the regional integration agenda.

The regional body is encouraging investors to use the Comesa Court of Justice and its institutions as an alternative resolution forum for matters arising within the region that touch on the application of the Comesa Treaty.

In a statement, President of the Comesa Court, Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, said the Court had already set a precedent by providing remedies to parties whose rights were violated in the past.

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Despite the Comesa Court having been in existence since 1994, Justice Chibesakunda observed that its services are not widely known or understood and have been under-utilised by the Comesa member states and other stakeholders.

“It is, therefore, crucial that all the member states, their residents, legal fraternity, business community and other stakeholders get to understand the operations of the Court,’ the statement quotes Chibesakunda as saying.

Comesa is targeting to visit all member countries to sensitise them about the role of the Court and its operations.

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Although the Comesa Court of Justice was established to adjudicate upon all disputes between countries operating within the regional bloc, the organ is largely underutilised because the business community and governments are not well informed about its functions and jurisdiction.

The Comesa Court is the judicial organ of Comesa through which member states and other stakeholders can seek redress for any damages or disputes which may arise as a result of the Comesa integration process.

But since inception, the Court, with headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan is hardly used by its stakeholders; principally, the business community and governments.

Nevertheless, the Court has been cited for its landmark rulings and advisory opinions which have reassured the business community of final redress where possible disputes are likely to occur with government and other parties.

In 2013, the court ruled in favour of a private company Polytol Paints in a matter involving the company and the State of Mauritius.

More recently, the Comesa Court found that it has jurisdiction to hear a case between Malawi Mobile (a mobile company incorporated in Malawi) and the government of Malawi. This is the first case from the Malawi Supreme Court to be referred to the Comesa Court of Justice.

The Court of Justice is expected to sit this month to decide the case.

Malawi Mobile Limited sued the government for an illegal termination of a contract.

The Malawi Government is contesting a ruling given by the First Instance Division of the Comesa Court of Justice which found that it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

The Comesa Court earlier dismissed the preliminary application by the Government of Malawi which contended that Comesa Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The decision was delivered in November 2015.

But government appealed against the ruling.

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