The biggest opposition parties in Burundi and Uganda have boycotted the election of new members to join the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), accusing their ruling parties of undemocratic dominance.
The region is counting down to the 5th Eala Assembly that kicks off in December. Kenya, just out of a general election, is expected to choose new Eala MPs as soon as the 13th parliament gets into session in the last week of September.
Tanzania, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Kenya are yet to hold their nominations.
In Burundi, the biggest opposition party – National Congress for Liberty (CNL) – boycotted this week’s parliamentary election of national Eala members, accusing the government of disregarding the rule of law in the nomination of representatives to the regional assembly.
The 82 members of Burundi’s parliament present went ahead with the process. Parliament has 104 members.
Agathon Rwasa, Burundi’s leading opposition leader and head of CNL, told The EastAfrican: “They ignored Article 50 of the EAC treaty. The Eala nomination should be redone because our party, CNL, sent two names but the ruling CNDD-FDD added a third, that of Kathy Kezimana, and which is the one approved yet we didn’t front it.”
Of the pre-selected candidates to fill Burundi’s nine slots in Eala, six are from the ruling party CNDD-FDD, one from CNL, one from UPRONA and a representative of the minority ethnic group Twa.
The final list for CNDD-FDD has Joseph Ntakirutimana (current party deputy secretary general), Gabriel Ntisezerana (former VP), Victor Burikukiye, Saidi Kibeya, Jean Marie Muhirwa and Mo-mamo Karerwa.
CNL got Kathy Kezimana despite not being her party’s candidate. UPRONA will be represented by Olivier Nkurunziza and Goreth Bigirimana will represent the Twa.
Burundi is also expected to take speakership of the 5th Assembly, replacing Rwanda’s Martin Ngoga who is completing his term later this year. But Gitega is expected to face competition with sources in Arusha telling The EastAfrican that South Sudan will front a candidate.
In Uganda, a parliamentary verification committee on Thursday presented to parliament 28 nominees for the country’s nine slots even as opposition groups boycotted the process.
The 28, a number of them independents, will be on the ballot on September 29, when parliament votes.
But the biggest opposition party in the House, the National Unity Platform (NUP), has snubbed the process, accusing the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) of misusing its numerical strength to shortchange other political parties and meddling in the nomination of their representatives.
It is highly anticipated that the NRM will get six slots, leaving two slots for the opposition and one for independents.
Traditionally, for either opposition or independents to win, they need the blessings of the ruling NRM – basically President Yoweri Museveni – because the final voting is done by all MPs and NRM has the numbers in parliament.
The NRM central executive committee chaired by President Museveni resolved to return all its six previous Eala members for another term because “they have performed very well so far.”
This did not sit well with the leader of opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, of NUP.
“For some reason without a formula, the NRM believes that it is entitled to six members at Eala, and that that entitlement is eternal; as if the six are ordained and that others should look at them in admiration,” Mpuuga said.
“NUP is not going to be part of this ritual. It is only going to be part of an election where the rules of the game are respected, where multi-party dispensation is upheld.”