Burundi takes EALA Speaker row to court

Saturday January 27 2018

The Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly Martin Ngoga. EALA

The Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Ngoga Karoli Martin, addressing the House on January 23, 2018 in Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO | EALA 

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Burundi wants the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to order the removal of Rwanda’s Martin Ngoga from the seat of the Speaker of the regional assembly.

The decision to go to court means Burundian members of the East African Legislative Assembly will attend proceedings, as they wait for a EACJ ruling. This ends a stalemate that was threatening to paralyse a sitting intended to pass long overdue laws.

The legal instruments up for debate in Kampala include the East African Community statistics and monetary institute Bills.

According to the monetary union protocol roadmap the institution in charge of verifying the region’s statistics should have been established before 2018. The deadline for establishment of the monetary union institute was 2015.

Victor Burukukiye, the Burundi chapter chair, said their government has ordered its representatives to attend EALA sessions until the EACJ gives its ruling on the legality of Mr Ngoga’s position as Speaker.

“We only boycotted because the government we represent told us to. And we shall attend proceedings until our government tells us not to,” he said.

Burundi has asked the EACJ to give direction on whether EALA members acted legally when they elected a Speaker on December 19, in the absence of Tanzania and Burundi members.

Under EALA rules of procedure, there is quorum if half of the elected members of the assembly are present. These members must include at least one-third of the elected members from each partner state. Mr Burukukiye said this rule is the basis of their challenging Mr Ngoga’s election.

Mr Ngoga was elected Speaker last year despite a boycott by members from Burundi and Tanzania.

Both countries had, alongside Rwanda, submitted names of candidates to compete for the seat. While Tanzania returned to the house with little ceremony once the Speaker had been chosen, there were fears that Burundi would boycott the sitting in Kampala.

The uncertainty over Burundi’s participation saw the EAC Summit chair, President Yoweri Museveni, focus on the quarrels that keep cropping up over the seat of EALA Speaker, during his speech to the members.

The previous EALA team spent a year fighting over the Speaker’s seat, which was at the time held by Margaret Zziwa. She was eventually censured and replaced by Daniel Kidega.

President Museveni promised to talk to any one who felt the process of electing Mr Ngoga was not satisfactory. But, he did add that he felt the process of choosing the Speaker was fair and that Rwanda deserved the speakership position.

However, Mr Burukukiye said President Museveni’s interpretation of the issue was political, which was why Burundi was seeking a legal interpretation.