The scramble for seats as race to EALA hots up

Sunday August 07 2022
EALA pic

The East Africa Legislative Assembly during a session in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO | FILE

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. Nomination of new members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has started amid anxiety over the benchmarks set by some partner states.
Rwanda, for one, seeks to introduce a university degree as one of the requirements for the aspirants from its soil.
In Uganda, there are reports that the ruling NRM party has resolved to maintain the same members elected five years ago.
These came to light as the seven East African Community (EAC) partner states are set to nominate their candidates for membership to the Assembly.
In Tanzania, at least 76 members of three political parties had by yesterday been confirmed to have picked the forms for nomination. Out of the 76, 64 are from the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and six each from ACT-Wazalendo and Civic United Front (CUF).
Eala is a legislative organ of the Community mandated to, among others, debate and approve the budget of the regional body.
According to the EAC Treaty, the National Assembly of each partner state shall elect nine aspirants for the regional Assembly.
They should not be among the members of their respective Parliaments but should represent various political parties represented in the Assembly.
Those elected for nomination to Eala should as well represent various shades of opinion, gender and other special interest groups in the respective country.
More crucial is that the aspirants for the regional House should neither be holding office as a minister nor an office in the service of the EAC.
With the five-year tenure of Fourth Eala coming to an end in December this year, various countries have started the process.
Rwanda announced on Thursday that it will introduce a new Bill to add a degree requirement for candidates aspiring to become Eala MPs. In fact, the bill has been adopted by the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Political Affairs and Gender, which has started to scrutinise it.
“It is proposed that requirements to be a Rwandan Member of Eala candidate include holding at least a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification,” a cabinet minister was quoted as saying.
Article 50 of the EAC Treaty does not set a bachelor’s degree or any other academic requirement for candidates aspiring for Eala membership.
However, minister Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi was explicit that that was his country’s benchmark for its nationals vying for the positions.
“Considering the analyses that are made, documents that are read, the idea arose for the need of a fairly educated person”, he said.
In Tanzania, sources said the election of aspirants for Eala will be made by the forthcoming session of the National Assembly in Dodoma.
For Tanzania, those eligible for membership to the august body include seven of the current members who by December will have served for only one five-year term.
Those who will not seek re-election are Adam Omar Kimbisa and Maryam Ussi Yahya who have been in the House since 2012.
Reports from Uganda had it that the ruling political party resolved mid last month that the MPs who were elected in 2017 should continue. The decision, already criticised in some quarters, defended the decision for what it described as “exceptional performance” of the sitting MPs.
Not all the nine sitting Eala MPs from Uganda are from the ruling party. Some are from the opposition parties and other shades of opinion. Eala officials could not discuss this when reached for comment. The EAC Treaty is clear on the tenure of office for the legislators. The outgoing 54-member Fourth Eala was sworn in on December 19th, 2017 for a five-year tenure which will end in December this year.
Alex Lumumba Obatre, the Clerk of the Assembly told The Citizen recently that the next House will continue to have nine members from each state.
These will include legislators from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which joined the Community on March 29 this year.
No decision has been made to date on a proposal to trim down the number of the MPs from each partner state from nine to five.