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EALA: Is it really worth the bother?

Ten years later, EALA remains obscure

The controversy over the election of MPs to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) rages on, with NRM and opposition politicians divided on the procedure of electing representatives to the regional assembly.

But ten years since its inauguration, EALA remains largely removed from ordinary people’s lives in the partner states. Michael Mubangizi asks if and how the regional assembly has impacted on ordinary Ugandans. Established by the East African Community treaty, EALA was inaugurated on November 30, 2001 and has so far had two five-year sessions (from November 30, 2001 to November 2006 and June 2007 to June 2012).

It sets out to liaise with the parliaments of partner states on matters relating to the Community; debate and approve the budget of the Community. It also considers annual reports on the activities of the Community, annual audit reports of the Audit Commission and any other reports referred to it by the Council. EALA also discusses all matters pertaining to the Community and makes recommendations to the Council as it may deem necessary for the implementation of the treaty.

Kanyomozi also cites legislations on the electoral commission and East African universities as EALA’s other achievements. The Assembly also debated and approved the EAC budgets for the financial years 2002/2003 to 2009/2010. So, how do EALA laws affect ordinary people in partner states? Sheila Mishambi Kawamara, a former EALA member, says when the laws are passed, they are assented to by the Presidents of EAC states before ratification by the respective national assemblies.

She adds that the laws are regional in nature. Legislation like the defence protocol, she says, benefits ordinary people in East Africa. “It protects them from invasion from other states and provides for joint action and collaboration of the partner states in case of attack.”

Kawamara adds that EALA laws protect resources treasured by the member states by stipulating how they should be used. Citing The Lake Victoria Transport Management Act, 2007, she says: “It tells how waste is to be disposed and in so doing protect partner states (and citizens) from pollution.”

Kawamara says the implementation is easy because these laws are initiated by partner states on issues of concern to them. Interpretation of any matters on laws passed by EALA is exclusively done by East African Court of Justice.

EALA obscure?

Many people tend to look at EALA as some kind of obscure entity with a limited mandate and scope of work. Kanyomozi disagrees, stressing that relevant people are informed about EALA proceedings. He cites laws passed by EALA that are given to Clerks of local assemblies for distribution to their MPs to inform their decisions when legislating on similar issues. Ministers in charge of East African Affairs, he adds, are ex-officials in EALA and are expected to occasionally brief MPs in their respective assemblies about proceedings in EALA.

Currently, EALA has seven standing committees – Accounts; Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources; General Purpose; House Business; Legal, Rules and Privileges; Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution; and Trade Communication and Investment. EALA may also appoint select committees as needed. The composition and leadership of each of these Committees is equally shared among the partner states. Despite the above setup, not all people are happy with EALA’s work. Robert Kalundi Serumaga, a renowned journalist and political pundit, for instance, says he has long lost interest in the assembly.

“I stopped following them because they remained focused on parliamentary debates,” Kalundi says.

He adds that he expected the assembly to develop other organs of the community like the EACJ, reasoning that “if such a court were strengthened, it would help the rights of indigenous people on issues like elections and human rights”.
Serumaga further says such a development would see EACJ serve as an appellate court on rights and election issues.

Concerns have also been raised on the quality of representatives to EALA with most people believing that EALA now attracts ‘nonstarters’ (like people who have previously failed in their respective national elections or even political novices). In fact, most of Uganda’s EALA hopefuls failed in their bid to make it to the Ninth Parliament.

They include Omara Atubo, Hope Mwesigye, Ben Wacha, Salaamu Musumba, Susan Nampijja, Susan Nakawuki, Ingrid Turinawe, John Kazoora, Christopher Kibanzanga, Augustine Ruzindana and novices like Nkwame Rugunda, Ambrose Murangira and Paul Musamali. It doesn’t help matters that the second EALA parliament was dominated by people who had pulled up short in the 2006 elections.

They include Nantongo Zziwa, Mike Sebalu and Dan Kidega, who, according to press reports, has been asked to stand down for Daniel Omara Atubo, whose 2011 parliamentary election bid ended in failure.

Some of the laws passed between 2000 and 2009

Community Emblems Act (No.1) 2004,
East African Legislative Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act (No.2), 2004
East African Community Customs Management Act (No.1), 2005
East African Community Competition Act, 2006
East African Community Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology, and Testing Bill, 2006
East African Community (Appropriation) Bill, 2006
East African Community Competition Act, 2006
Lake Victoria Transport Management Act, 2007
East African Community Joint Trade Negotiations Act, 2008
Inter- University Council for East Africa Act, 2008
East African Community Budget Act, 2008
EAC Customs (Amendment) Act, 2008
Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight (CASSOA) Act, 2009.
Source: www.eala.org

Uganda EALA MPs (2001- 2006)

Yonasani Kanyomozi
Sheila Mishambi
Medi Kaggwa
Irene Ovonji Odida
Lydia Wanyoto Mutende
Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu
Sarah Bagalaaliwo
Capt. Richard Baker Ddudu
Daniel Wandera Ogalo

Second EALA 2007- to date MPs

Mike Sebalu
Lydia Wanyoto Mutende
Dora Byamukama
Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu
Daniel Wandera Ogalo
Daniel Kidega
Bernard Mulengani
Nusura Tiperu
Margaret Zziwa

mcmubs@observer.ug

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