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Customs Law of the East African Community in light of WTO Law and the Revised Kyoto Convention

by Dr. Edward Kafeero, LL.M.

The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) was signed by the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda on 30th November 1999, in Arusha, Tanzania. The Treaty entered into force on 7th July 2000 and it was formally launched on 15th January 2001. This was followed by the signing of the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Customs Union on 2nd March 2004, which entered into force on 1st January 2005. The East African Community currently comprises five countries, following the accession of Burundi and Rwanda on 18th June 2007.

All Partner States of the East African Community are also Members of both the World Trade Organization and as such they are obliged to observe its rules. These countries are also members of the World Customs Organization under the auspices of which the Kyoto Convention was signed. Thus, the Revised Kyoto Convention which was adopted as a blueprint for modern and efficient customs procedures in the 21st century is also indispensable to customs legislation administration in the East African Community.

This work fundamentally examines the consistency of EAC customs law with international customs law as contained in various WTO rules and in the provisions of the Revised Kyoto Convention. It is divided into three parts. And each part contains three chapters. Part I elaborates the fundamental concepts and laws pertinent to Customs, particularly at an international level. It is, so to say, the ‘dogmatic’ part of the work. In the first place, the meaning of the term Customs is expounded from historical and linguistic points of view. This is followed by the exposition of the major tenets of customs law as contained in the GATT/WTO legal and economic system. Lastly, the fundamental pillars of the Revised Kyoto Convention (and of the World Customs Organisation, under whose auspices the convention was signed) are elucidated.

Part II first traces the development of the East African Community and then describes its structure and functioning. In chapters 5 and 6, the substantive and procedural customs law of the East African Community is then expounded and interpreted. It should be noted that a number of comparisons and contrasts are also made in these chapters.

Part III is basically evaluative. First, the concept of Regional Trade Agreements is analyzed and defined. This is followed by the explication of the systemic issues which concern the WTO disciplines on Regional Trade Agreements. This is very helpful, inter alia, in assessing the legal status of the East African Community vis-à-vis the World Trade Organisation, which assessment is made precise within chapter 8. The last chapter then evaluates the laws relating to certain customs procedures available in the EAC, indicating their level of conformity with the Revised Kyoto Convention.

The results of this work indicate that there is a high degree of consistency between the written customs laws of the East African Community and the rules of both the World Trade Organisation and the Revised Kyoto Convention.

Despite the above-mentioned consistency, there are a number of problems with regard to the implementation of the international customs laws or standards in the day-to-day customs administration within the East African Community. As indicated in the study, these problems are mainly infrastructural and managerial in character. They particularly relate to information dissemination and information management; the use of modern techniques and technologies; as well as integrity.


The dissertation is available at

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