ARUSHA, TANZANIA, Legislators from Tanzania and Burundi who are serving members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have unanimously denounced the election of House Speaker Martin Ngoga of Rwanda.
The Speaker was elected here Tuesday after a heated debate over legality and propriety of the election which saw the Tanzania and Burundi legislators boycotting the vitung. Tanzanian legislators, led by their chairman, Dr Abdullah Makame and Habib Mnyaa, ruled out any possibility of business getting underway in the Assembly under the new Speaker.
Dr Makame said the Tanzanian team would engage others in consultations to resolve the standoff, possibly through a rerun of the election or they would file the matter with the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) for determination.
The Clerk to the Assembly, Kenneth Madete, listened to several proposals, objections and directives from the legislators and Council of Ministers before deciding to conduct the polls, having adjourned the election on Monday for lack of quorum.
In a statement released and signed by Burundian legislators to the EALA, they said they wiould not recognise Ngoga as Speaker, arguing that his election violated Rules 12, 53.1 and 57.1 of the Treaty establishing the East African Community (EAC).
Both Tanzania and Burundi expressed concern that in spite of Kenya delaying House business for six months as other partner states waited, they still made haste to elect the Speaker in the absence of representation from the two countries.
The Burundians said that given the fact that Burundi and Rwanda joined EAC at the same time, after Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, it was in the interest of everybody that alphabetical order be followed" in picking the Speaker, and hence Burundi would have precedence over Rwanda.
Ngoga was elected after a series of controversies which dominated House business since Monday, including lack of quorum, as some legislators left the debating chamber when polls were due for casting. At last Ngoga emerged the winner after scooping 33 votes out of 36 votes cast, at a time when Tanzania and Burundi lawmakers had boycotted the election. There are nine legislators from each of the six member nations of the EAC in the EALA,
The votes were cast twice after ar lack of quorum during the first round. Legislators engaged in heated debate over voting or postponing the election, which took the better time of the session. Kirunda Kivejinja, Chair to the Council of Ministers, had to intervened as the legislators battled it out to secure what seemed best for their own countries.
Kivejinja had proposed that the election be postponed and the matter be taken to the heads of EAC state Summit for decision but the legislators wouldn't budge. Others contesting the Speaker's post were Adam Kimbisa from Tanzania and Burundian Leontine Nzeyimana.
Nzeyimana who was also absent from the chamber obtained a 'consolation' three votes. EALA is made up of 54 members, but only those from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan were present during the voting.
Just two members from Tanzania -- Dr Abdullah Makame and Dr Ngwaru Maghembe -- were in the debating chamber during the early hours of the session but they left when they failed to convince the EALA Clerk to postpone the exercise for lack of quorum.
They argued that the elections could not be valid if Tanzanian and Burundian legislators did not take part; in particular, Dr Maghembe said they had waited 'with patience' for six months as the Kenyans sorted out their own election of members to the EALA, so wondered out loud why they (Kenya) were pushing for the election while their Burundi and Tanzania counterparts were not in the House.
Ugandan lawmaker Suzanne Nakauki questioned why the legislators were not in the House and said it wasn't right for the heads of state to decide for them who should be the Speaker while they had the full mandate to elect their own leader (Speaker).
A Kenyan legislator, Chris Opoke, said the EALA had lost three months without conducting any business, arguing there was no need for further delay. After several directives from the Council of Ministers and more opinions from the legislators, the EALA Clerk decided in favour of those who wanted the election conducted.
For three times last Monday, the Clerk to EALA adjourned the voting even as some Burundian legislators wanted to be given the slot without a vote. Madete had no option but to adjourn the session to Tuesday after presiding the swearing-in of the newly elected members from six East EAC partner states on Monday.
EALA is an organ of the East African Community established in 2001 with a mandate of legislation, representation and oversight. The Speaker of the EALA is elected by the members from among their number on rotational basis.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK