The process of picking EALA MPs should be reformed

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

Summary

  • By picking candidates through political parties, who then go on to be voted by the same individuals who picked them in the first place, they are assured of making it to the finish line. There is nothing about them that is reflective of the concerns of ordinary people on a regional stage.

The process of picking individuals to represent the country to the regional assembly in Arusha has concluded within political parties. Some political parties opted not to partake in the process for various reasons which are reflective of domestic political climate.

Regardless of whether all political parties participate in the process or not, it is a flawed process which has to be reformed for the regional assembly to be impactful to the lives of ordinary people throughout the East African Community (EAC).

Mwananchi newspaper ran a story about individuals who had been picked by some of the political parties including the ruling party, CCM, in which it was noted that some of the candidates picked are family-related to some big names within the party.

Even some of the individuals from another political party which has picked candidates had name recognition or position in their party and can hardly be said to be outsiders.

This is part of the problem with this process; it is not representative, hence irrelevant.

The entire process hardly made any headlines, and where it did they were easily forgotten.

Few ordinary people can mention any of the outgoing East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MPs. By picking candidates through political parties, who then go on to be voted by the same individuals who picked them in the first place, they are assured of making it to the finish line. There is nothing about them that is reflective of the concerns of ordinary people on a regional stage.

It can be argued that national MPs are representatives of the people in their home countries hence are better placed to pick EALA MPs, however, this is misleading.

National parliamentarians are chained to their political parties and countless times have not had the people’s best interests at heart.

They have placed the interests of their political parties and other political concerns, like their political future, ahead of the concerns of their constituents; their voters. EALA MPs should be elected by the people. After all, it is no secret that each general election, voters send the majority of national MPs packing for all sorts of reasons.

There is also a question of how to assess the performance of these regional MPs.

This is another problematic aspect of the current set up. National MPs are voted out for a range of reasons, some beyond their own abilities.

However, a voter in a certain constituency can ask their MPs about this water project or that road project. What of the EALA MPs? How should one go about the task of assessing their performance once they come back for reelection? Some of those who have been picked are either running to return to Arusha or were once there as regional MPs.

It is an impossible task to say with certainty what gives them the right to ask for another chance to go back.

Equally, it is extremely difficult to find any reasons why they should not go back because the way the regional parliament was set up means it achieves very little.

In short, one will struggle to better understand whether they are nationalists or regionalists.

Some of the headlines coming out of Arusha about their differences on certain issues do not point to a successful regional agenda.

Parliamentary proceedings for electing these regional representatives can be a comedians’ paradise.

It does not matter whether the candidate is capable or not in the task ahead, what matters are the numbers of the voters in the national assembly and their political affiliations.

As such, the country has ended up with regional representatives who no one clearly remembers of their time in Arusha.

Many of those who are sent to Arusha or end up there for other reasons like being on a political exile or being political rejects, do not make the regional parliament a final political stop.

It is merely a stop as they find ways to go back to national parliaments or make their first entry there.

The process of picking EALA MPs has to be reformed.

In the current shape, the regional parliament is another financial burden to regional taxpayers because it does not reflect ordinary people’s concerns about their region.