Eala bills hang in the balance after rejection by Tanzania

Monday April 24 2017

The East African Legislative Assembly in

The East African Legislative Assembly in session. The fate of three bills passed by the East African Legislative Assembly two years ago remains in limbo after Tanzania withheld assent.  PHOTO | FILE 

By Zephania Ubwani @ubwanizg3 news@tz.nationmedia.com

Arusha. The fate of three bills passed by the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) two years ago remains in limbo after they were rejected by Tanzania.

The bills were approved  in 2015 and had been forwarded to heads of the partner states ready for assent but would now have to wait much longer before becoming law after Tanzania withheld assent.

The legal documents in question risk the danger of lapsing (abandoned altogether) if the Tanzanian president withheld assent to a re-submitted bill.

Sources close to Eala told The Citizen over the weekend that no time frame has been made as to when the rejected bills would be brought back to the House for another debate.

“They (bills) would be brought back to the House so as to address the reasons why Tanzania withheld for assent,” said one official on condition of anonymity.

The Bills are the EAC Cultural and Creative Industries Bill, 2015, The EAC Electronic Transactions Bill, 2015 and the EAC Forests Management and Protection Bill, 2015.

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The sources said although they were duly passed by Eala in 2015, Tanzania notified the Speaker of the regional Parliament was notified in September last year  that it was withholding its assent.

A communication sent to Eala  by the ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation acknowledged receiving the bills in question from the East African Community (EAC) after they were endorsed by its legislative organ.

Eala Speaker Daniel Kidega was, however, informed that President of the United Republic of Tanzania “withheld assent) of the three bills in accordance with the stipulated provisions of the EAC Treaty.

Under Article 62 of the EAC Treaty, when a bill has been duly passed by the regional Assembly, the Speaker shall submit the said bill to the Heads of State for assent.

However, it is the prerogative of of the Heads of State to assent or withhold assent to a bill.

In such eventuality, a bill that has not received assent within three months from the date on which it was passed by the Assembly “shall be referred back to the Assembly, giving reasons, and with a request that the bill or a particular provision thereof be reconsidered by the Assembly”.

If the Assembly discusses and approves the bill, the bill shall be  re-submitted to the Heads of State for assent.

But if a Head of State withholds assent to a re-submitted bill, the bill shall lapse, according to Article 63 of the EAC Treaty.

When reached for comment, Eala spokesperson Bobi Odiko said he was not sure when the legal documents would be brought back to the House.

He added, nevertheless, that this has not happened during the tenure of the Third Assembly whose five year tenure that began in June 2012 ends on June 4th this year and that it was something rare in Eala history.

A communication sent to Eala by the Foreign Affairs and EA Cooperation ministry gave reasons why the Tanzanian Head of State has refused to assent the EAC Forests Management and Protection Bill.

One of the reasons was that not all EAC partner states have ratified the EAC Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources under which all the member countries in the bloc had agreed to all activities pertaining to it.

Until now only Uganda and Kenya have ratified the pact while other countries - incidentally including Tanzania - have not appended their signatures to the pact for various reasons.

Tanzania, for instance, had its concerns on the protocol among them being that some of the provisions in it contradicted the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol, particularly on land matters.

The EAC Forests and Management Protection Bill 2015 hopes to promote the development, protection, conservation, sustainable management and use of the vast forestry resources in the region, including trans-boundary forests ecosystems.

Tanzania also rejected to assent the EAC Electronic Transactions Bill, 2015 on grounds that matters pertaining to Electronic Transactions in the region are dealt with by the EAC Task Force on Harmonization of Cyberlaws.

Tanzania argues that before enacting any law on Electronic Transactions , a situational analysis need to be carried out in order to identify the gaps available within the national laws of the partner states.

On the EAC Cultural and Creative Industries Bill, 2015, Tanzania, says it is hesitant to assent the legal framework because cultural creative industry involved intellectual property rights elaborated under the EAC Common Market Protocol.

The matter is still under consideration by the Task Force on Harmonization and Approximation of laws in the EAC context.