Arusha. Burundi has formally challenged in court the election of the current Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).
The counsel representing Burundi , Mr Nestor Kayobera, told the East African Court of Justice on Tuesday that the elections were held in violation of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.
He said the polls were held in the absence of lawmakers from Burundi and Tanzania, contrary to Eala Rules of Procedure and tenets of the Treaty.
The case came before a panel comprising justices Monica Mugenyi, Faustin Ntezilyayao, Fakihi Jundu, Charles Nyawello and Charles Nyachae.
Mr Kayobera submitted to the court that the elections of the Speaker were governed by the EAC Treaty and Laws of Procedure and that the December 19 polls should be nullified because they did not meet the required criteria.
Mr Martin Ngoga, an Eala member from Rwanda was elected the fifth Eala Speaker, succeeding Mr Daniel Kidega from Uganda, who had held the position from December 2014.
Burundi and Tanzania also fielded one candidate each for the position. Later, lawmakers from the two countries boycotted the poll after the names of their candidates were dropped.
According to Mr Kayobera, the quorum of the House or of the Committee of the Whole House is supposed to be half of the elected members in an event of such elections.
Such quorum shall also be composed of at least one third of the elected members from each of the six EAC partner states.
Mr Kayobera further submitted that Article 23 of the EAC Treaty provides powers to the court, as a judicial organ of the community, to ensure adherence to the law and compliance of the Treaty.
He, therefore, asked the court to order fresh re-election of the Speaker “in accordance with the Treaty and rules of the Assembly”.
Dr Anthony Kafumbe, representing the EAC secretary general, submitted that the election of the Speaker was conducted under Part III of the Rules of Procedure of the assembly.
“After all members who wish to vote have voted, the Clerk (of the Assembly) shall in view of members present, empty the ballot box and immediately count the ballot paper contained in it,” he said.
He also argued that the issue of quorum does not apply, and that it only applies when the House is duly constituted.
Dr Kafumbe, therefore, submitted that there was no illegal election process, that the Speaker was elected “under relevant provisions of the Rules of Procedure”.
He also contended that members of the Assembly have accepted the Speaker “and therefore it would not be helpful to nullify the election and order fresh election”.
Dr Kafumbe, who is the counsel to the EAC, took issue with the affidavits sworn by the applicant’s counsel, calling on the court to reject them on legal technicalities.
The interveners Fred Mbidde Mukasa, Justin Semuyaba and Nelson Ndeki asked the court not to grant the orders sought by the applicants.
The court will deliver judgement on notice.
The position of the Speaker is rotational and the holder serves for five years.