Nairobi could provide a defining moment for the months-long crises which have haunted the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) since early this year as it reconvenes in the Kenyan capital today, with chairpersons of its vital committees and six commission members having resigned.
Sources close to the regional parliament said the crisis could reach boiling point if the MPs did not reach a consensus over an apparent leadership crisis and the pending motion to remove Tanzanian legislator Shy-Rose Bhanji as a member of the Eala commission. The stalemate crippled the assembly’s business in Kigali last month.
Although the issue is not on the provisional programme for plenary and standing committee of the sessions starting today in Nairobi, officials here have confided the matter cannot be ruled out and that should that happen, it would deepen the crisis facing the regional institution.
The standoff, sources further confided, could result in some parties going to court for being dissatisfied with the way the regional parliament is conducting its activities and hence seek the Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State to amend the Treaty.
“We don’t know yet what will happen but Nairobi could provide a defining moment for these crises,” an official who cannot be named as he is not the secretariat spokesperson said, recalling Eala Rules of Procedure (Rule 18) which states that any item of business standing on the Order Paper as at time of interruption shall be placed on the Order Paper for the next sitting of the assembly.
A tentative programme of the Nairobi sessions made available to The Citizen newspaper in Arusha indicates that there would be at least two committee meetings for Eala members and a press conference where the contentious issues are likely to crop up.
However, the resignation of six members of the Eala commission as well as the stepping down of the chairpersons of five of its six sectoral committees may affect legislative business such as the enabling of important bills.
The Eala commission is the supreme body for other committees and is composed of the Speaker, the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers and has two members of the assembly from each EAC partner state. The Speaker is the Chairperson of the commission, which nominates members of the six committees.
Sources close to Eala and the EAC Secretariat said the commission, for whom the embattled Ms Bhanji from Tanzania is a member, can hardly transact business following the resignation of six members – none from Tanzania. Those who have tendered their resignations are Mr Abubakr Ogle (Kenya); Mr Christopher Bazivamo, Ms Hafsa Mossi (Burundi); Ms Patricia Hajabakiga, Jeremy Ngendakumana (Rwanda) and Ms Nusura Tiperu (Uganda).
They claimed they have resigned because of “the crisis of leadership” at the commission which they allege has eroded the credibility of the assembly and EAC in general.
Those who resigned as chairpersons with their respective committees in bracket are Dr Martin Nduwimana (General Purpose Committee), Mr Abubakar Zein (Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution), Ms Dora Byamukama (Legal Rules and Privileges) and Mr Straton Ndikuryayo (Accounts Committee).
From the list, indications are that none of the nine legislators from Tanzania has resigned either as a member of the Eala Commission or as chairperson of the sector committee.
Ms Angela Kizigha, the chairperson of the Communications, Trade and Investment Committee, is not on the list of chairpersons who have tendered their resignations.
Eala sessions in Nairobi will, among other things, deliberate on the EAC Co-operative Bill, 2014 and the EAC Cross Border Legal Practice Bill, 2014. Both bills will be read for the third time.
Eala members will also participate in the EAC Infrastructure Retreat and Summit of the Heads of State. The two events will take place in Nairobi on November 29th and 30th respectively.