Zziwa: EALA broke most of its own rules

Monday February 13 2017

The former Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly Margaret Zziwa wants $2 million as compensation for “wrongful” impeachment and the emotional pain she suffered as a result. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The former Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly Margaret Zziwa who was impeached. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By Dicta Asiimwe

The East African Legislative Assembly says it will not work to remedy illegalities it committed during the process of impeaching former Speaker Margaret Nantongo Zziwa.

The decision comes after the East African Court of Justice, in a ruling issued on February 3, found fault with the regional legislative body on nearly all grounds raised by Ms Zziwa in her petition. However, the court refused to rule in her favour.

EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega said he sees no justification to revise any of the regional body’s practices or offer an apology to Ms Zziwa based on the ruling, which he said EALA’s lawyers were unhappy with.

Busingye Kabumba, a lecturer at Makerere University Law School’s Human Rights and Peace Centre, said the EACJ appears to have sacrificed the rule of law for political expediency in this case.

He said the court probably feared that if it went ahead to say that the removal of Ms Zziwa from office was illegal, it would mean all the work done in the past two years is null and void.

It would also worsen the bad image the regional body already has, with Tanzania’s President John Magufuli and some key development partners accusing it of corruption.     
Mr Kidega said the ruling has been overtaken by events as the rules that were used when Ms Zziwa was Speaker have since changed.

“We amended the rules of procedure just after I became Speaker,” he said. However, he admitted that no amendments were made in relation to the impeachment, election or replacement of a Speaker.

In its ruling, the court said the regional assembly would do well to “relook its House and committee procedural rules, and address lacunae that could cause confusion in its legislative function.” 

Ms Zziwa sued the Secretary-General over her impeachment in December 2016. The regional court found that EALA broke most if not all its rules to achieve their goal.

The judges highlighted the fact that EALA suspended Ms Zziwa, even though this is not provided for in the Treaty or in the rules of procedure. It also committed another illegality in appointing a temporary Speaker.

Loss of earnings

Despite its findings, the court did not rule for Ms Zziwa, who was seeking special damages for the loss of earnings, and instead castigated her for having refused to disqualify herself from presiding over the motion to impeach her.

Justices Monica Mugenyi, Isaac Lenaola, Faustin Ntezilyayo, Fakihi Jundu and Audace Ngiye in their ruling also said they couldn’t reverse her impeachment or reinstate her to the regional body since the decision had already been made.

“This Court may declare EALA’s actions to be in violation of the Treaty upon which EALA can, within its own mandate, proceed to ensure compliance with such a decision,” the EACJ ruled.