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EALA impasse tests community as Mbidde plots to have assembly dissolved

Analysis

EALA impasse tests community as Mbidde plots to have assembly dissolved

EALA Speaker Margaret Nantongo Zziwa

For a second time in six months, intrigue and indiscipline among the members that has undermined the functioning of the East African region’s legislative body.

The latest source of impasse stems from a motion moved on October 29 last week by Uganda’s Dorah Byamukama to remove Tanzania’s representative Shy-Rose Bhanji as a Member of the EALA Commission, which is EALA’s policy organ because she insulted her colleagues while on a recent tour in Europe.

According to a statement from EALA’s website, the motion sought to condemn Bhanji for her alleged derogatory remarks against some EAC Partner States, some Members of the Summit of EAC States as well as verbal insults against members of the delegation.

The motion however flopped because her Tanzanian counterparts refused to attend the sitting that was expected to adopt the motion. A move that was interpreted as an attempt to save her.

According to Uganda’s representative Fred Mukasa Mbidde, who is one of Speaker Zziwa’s staunch supporters, Ugandan representatives have greatly shamed the country by working very hard to remove their own.

“What we are witnessing is sheer indiscipline, especially by Ugandan representatives because they are leading the campaign,”said Mbidde.

Mbidde argues that the Assembly has been rendered dysfunctional largely by the misconduct of Ugandan representatives, whom he says, are motivated by revenge, intrigue and selfishness in their conduct. He cited Dorah Byamukama, who was defeated by Zziwa to the prestigious position of EALA Speaker.

Mbidde says that Byamukama latest plot against Bhanji as an extension of a protracted campaign against Zziwa as it seeks to render the house dysfunctional.

Mbidde says that the alleged misconduct by Bhanji was a private matter that should never have been made the business of the Assembly, as intended by Byamugisha. But other members from other countries think otherwise, seen by their overwhelming support for the motion.

Besides shaming the country, the EALA paralysis has exposed serious weaknesses in the existing legal framework governing the legislative body, especially the absence of a system of checks and balances that can be used to hold errant members accountable.

In fact, while national Parliaments have the power to elect EALA members, there are no mechanisms whatsover to discipline them or recall them. This has been described by some as a major gap that is being exploited by the members to behave the way they want.

Indeed many members of Uganda’s Parliament don’t know what transpires in EALA, but also there is no way to force EALA members to brief their electorates on the goings-on in the assembly.

As illustrated by Aruu County MP Odonga Otto when asked to comment about the impasse, he said: “I would be deceiving you that I know what is going on there. I don’t know where they have reached,” commented Otto.

The glaring lack of inbuilt mechanisms for accountability in EALA, were demonstrated when President Museveni summoned Uganda’s EALA members upon their alleged malicious campaign to censure Zziwa. According to Mbidde, President Museveni appealed to them to desist from waging personal vendettas, but they ignored his advice.

Analysts argue that Zziwa’s woes started when she suggested that EALA sitting stop being rotational and instead take place in Arusha where they are supposed to oversee the Secretariat.

The rotational system is popular among many EALA members because it allows them a hefty US$ 6000 (Ushs 16m) in perdiem every time the assembly sits outside Arusha. Every year, the assembly meets about 5 times. The 6000 allowances comes on top of the US$6000 that members get on a monthly basis.

Without a clear mechanism to call the members to order, Mbidde, says he is planning to petition the EAC court to call for the dissolution of the assembly.

“There is enough evidence to show that this assembly is too paralyzed to conduct any more business and should therefore be dissolved.”

EALA’s infighting as well as the inbuilt deficiencies, coupled with the body’s insignificant impact on the general workings of the community, suggests a return to the drawing board to provide a firmer foundation for the community and facilitate trade and human exchanges.

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