Lobbying for the nine people who will represent Kenya at the East African Legislative Assembly has started in earnest after the National Assembly passed new election rules on April 6.
The election for the nine MPs is set for May 16, which coincides with the campaigns for the August 8 general election.
The three leading political parties — The National Alliance (TNA), the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) — are entitled to the nine slots and are said to be urging some candidates to stand down from the national election for others with the promise of being nominated to EALA.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s defunct TNA is entitled to three slots while his deputy William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) is entitled to two seats.
Raila Odinga’s opposition gets three while Kalonzo Musyoka’s WDM, is entitled to one.
Since the inauguration of EALA in 2001, leaders of Kenya’s main political parties have been using the regional assembly as a soft landing for their close associates who miss out on nomination for seats in the general election.
Out of the nine current Kenyan members, six — Abubakr Ogle, Mumbi Ng’aru, Judith Pareno, Abubakar Zein, Nkae ole Sauli and Nancy Abisai — are expected to seek another term.
Peter Mathuki and Joseph Kiangoi are running for posts in the August election while Sarah Bonaya has finished her two terms.
Now, the Kenyan election rules for EALA members have been changed to include the Senate in a joint committee of 14 members—seven from each House — to vet the candidates before the names are taken to the plenary for voting.
Candidates are required to apply through their respective parties, which are required to vet the applicants to ensure they meet the requirements of Article 50(2) of the EAC Treaty before forwarding their names for further vetting and interviews.
The Treaty requires EALA members to be: A citizen of that partner state; qualified to be elected a member of the National Assembly of that partner state under its Constitution; not holding office as a minister in that partner state; is not an officer in the service of the Community; and to have proven experience or interest in consolidating and furthering the aims and the objectives of the Community.
Each of the six partner states have different methods and rules of electing their EALA members, but Article 50 (1) of the Treaty requires that members must represent shades of opinion, gender and other special interest groups in that partner state, in accordance with such procedure as the National Assembly of each partner state may determine.
The term of the current—3rd Assembly—comes to an end on June 4. Uganda was the first partner state to elect EALA members on March 2.
Following it was South Sudan, which will be joining the regional assembly for the first time. South Sudan elected the nine members in mid-March.
In early April, the Tanzanian parliament elected seven members and rejected two applicants belonging to the opposition Chadema, which will be required to nominate two fresh candidates.
Both Rwanda — five out of whose nine representatives are not eligible for re-election — and Burundi are yet to start the process.
In November 2015, Burundi caused a stir when it recalled four of its EALA members who had opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza bid for a third term.