Burundi has fronted Joseph Ntakarutimana, the deputy secretary-general of the country’s ruling party CNDD-FDD, to be the next Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) whose election is slated for Tuesday, December 20.
Mr Ntakarutimana told journalists in Arusha, Tanzania, the headquarters of the East African Community, that his objective will be to make sure the interests of East Africans are at the fore of his work.
“I will make sure that the East African Community is felt like one home. We will work together with lawmakers to make sure that the interests of East Africans is well served,” said Mr Ntakarutimana.
He will be competing with two female candidates —Ms Ann Itto and Gai Deng — from South Sudan. Initially, South Sudan had four candidates including Gideon Gatpan and Kennedy Mukulia both of whom later pulled out of the race saying that Juba had fronted different candidates.
“I stepped down because I needed to serve the interest of my country first because Juba fronted Ann Itto for the position,” said Kennedy Mukulia after stepping down.
The two countries will face off for the speaker's position on Tuesday in a secret ballot to be conducted by EALA legislators.
“I have (the) advantage of having served for the last five years (and) there are a lot of things that we will address…the most important thing will be strengthening our cooperation with the institutions such as the council of ministers, summit and the secretariat so that we work together in terms of enhancing integration,” said Gai Deng from South Sudan.
Ms Deng indicated that among her priorities if elected will be enhancing the visibility of the assembly by taking our work to the people, “and that’s through the rotational system whereby we do our sittings in the partner states.”
In 2017, Burundi and Rwanda competed for the Speaker the regional assembly which culminated in the outgoing Speaker Martin Ngoga defeating Leontine Nzeyimana.
Both Burundi and Rwanda entered the EAC at the same time in 2007.
In the last Speaker's race, Burundi filed a case at the East African Court of Justice challenging Rwanda's victory. But the court ruled in favour of Rwanda’s Mr Ngoga whose term ended on December 17, 2022.
The treaty for the establishment of the EAC is silent on the order in which member states will take the Speaker's position. Article 53(1) of the treaty indicates that, “the Speaker of the Assembly shall be elected on a rotational basis by the elected members of the Assembly from among themselves to serve for a period of five years.”
Burundi, South Sudan and newly admitted member DR Congo are the only member states yet to take up the position of Speaker of the regional assembly. They are eligible to contest for the position.
Nine legislators from the DRC registered at EALA in Arusha on Sunday for the first time since the country joined the community in March this year.
EALA will now have 63 lawmakers from the initial 54 after DRC joined the community, the regional lawmakers serve for a term of five years renewable once.