LEGISLATORS from Tanzania and Burundi within the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have unanimously denounced the election of House Speaker, Mr Martin Ngoga.
The speaker was elected on Tuesday after a heated debate over legality and propriety of the election that saw the Tanzania and Burundi legislators boycott the polls. Tanzanian legislators led by their chairman, Dr Abdullah Makame and Engineer 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; else, they would “file the matter with the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) for determination.”
The Clerk to the Assembly, Mr 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 same on Monday for lack of quorum.
In a statement released and signed by Burundian legislators to the EALA, they said they will not recognise Mr 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 legislators 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 ofeverybody that alphabetical order be followed in getting the speaker, hence Burundi would have to preside over the EALA.
Mr Ngoga was elected after a series of controversies that dominated the House since Monday, including lack of quorum, as some legislators left the debating chamber when polls were due for casting. At last Mr Ngoga emerged the winner after scooping 33 votes out of 36 votes cast, at a time when Tanzania and Burundi lawmakers had boycotted the polling exercise.
The votes were cast twice – for 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. Mr 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.
Mr 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. Other contestants were Mr Adam Kimbisa from Tanzania and Burundian Mr Leontine Nzeyimana respectively.
Mr Nzeyimana who was also absent from the chamber gave him a ‘consolation’ three votes. EALA is made up of 54 members, but it was only those from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan who were present during voting exercise.
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 aloud why they (Kenya) were pushing for the election while their Burundi and Tanzania counterparts were not in the House.
Ugandan lawmaker, Ms 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, Mr 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, Mr Madete adjourned the voting even as some Burundian legislators wanted to be given the slot without a vote.
Mr 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.