Where Are Our Graduates?
We are answering the most frequently asked question that we get through this second entry of our 4-part series.
Today we feature Ms. Everlyn Kavenge Muendo, graduate of Cohort 1 of the training programme.
Everlyn is currently working at the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) as a Policy Assistant, Tax and Investment. In her line of work, public interest law is a key part of the strategies used to promote tax justice and curb illicit financial flows. As such, the training programme on public interest litigation has been a handy tool in Everlyn’s day to day work.
During the training programme, Everlyn worked on a project in which she sought to challenge the constitutionality of the Nairobi International Financial Centre Act of Kenya which was the law that establishes the Nairobi International Financial Centre. Everlyn argued that setting up the Centre was akin to setting up a tax haven in Kenya. This is because foreign entities would be provided with an array of incentives including tax incentives and this would all be shrouded in increased financial secrecy. Ultimately, this would be towards the detriment of Kenya, because it would decrease the revenue (as there wasn’t any cost benefit analysis of the revenue the country would lose versus the amount of foreign direct investments or real economic activity that the Centre would attract). However, Everlyn did not file this particular case because the Act had not specified the tax incentives, despite launching the Centre.
Instead, in 2021 Everlyn and colleagues at TJNA worked to file a case at the East African Court of Justice on a similar situation. The Rwandan government was also setting up the Kigali International Financial Centre. To do this, the government of Rwanda had amended the Investment Promotion Law and provided a wide array of tax incentives. Everlyn and her colleagues filed a case on the basis that this would violate the East African Community Treaty (EAC Treaty) and Common Market Protocol. That, Rwanda was violating the EAC Treaty obligations to take steps towards creating a common investment area as it would encourage harmful tax competition through the tax incentives provided, and further that the tax incentives amounted to inappropriate state aid contrary to the Common Market Protocol. Everlyn and colleagues also contended that the incentives were discriminatory as they were only advanced towards foreign nationals who did not include EAC residents. To remedy this, the case calls for a review of these tax incentives. This case is currently still ongoing.
Everlyn is still very much in Public Interest Law practice. Recently, her office organized the first retreat themed ‘Using PIL to Address Tax Injustice and Illicit Financial Flows’, which brought together stakeholders from different African countries working on cases that seek to advance economic rights in areas such as Double Taxation Agreements, Free Trade Agreements, public debt frameworks, mining tax incentives and capital flight; for peer to peer learning and forging new areas of litigation and collaboration.
There are many faces to Public Interest Litigation. Everlyn champions PIL in relation to economic rights and she does so with such skill, willpower and excellence.
Well done Everlyn!
The next edition of #WhereAreOurGraduates will be shared at the end of July.