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EAC staff recruitment scramble exposes wars splitting partner unity

Saturday October 23 2021
EAC headquarters

EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. The Legislative Assembly is deliberating the shortage of workers at the Secretariat. PHOTO | COURTESY

By LUKE ANAMI

The staff recruitment process at the East African Community, which stalled after Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan flagged it as flawed, has exposed the mistrust and competition among partner states.

Last week, a motion moved at East African Legislative Assembly by Ugandan MP Denis Namara calling for the suspension of the EAC Staff recruitment exercise until the matter is resolved threatened to halt operations in Arusha, as partner states jostled for positions while coalescing around two opposing sides, Uganda versus Tanzania.

Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan feel most aggrieved in the process, which is yet to kick off, while the big economies Kenya and Tanzania are on the other side. Although Rwanda also called for fairness in the distribution of jobs, it has not publicly criticised Nairobi and Dodoma in the manner Uganda and South Sudan have.

Kenya and Tanzania, which had rocky relations in the John Magufuli era, have recently established rapport in the Samia Hassan reign, but the camaraderie has seen them isolated in the scramble for employment quotas in the bloc.

Uganda, through EAC Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, has vehemently protested the process of hiring an Eala clerk, with the minister last weekend firing strongly worded letters to the Secretariat. Burundi and South Sudan also wrote to express their dissatisfaction with the way the recruitment had been handled.

It took the intervention of the Council of Ministers chaired by Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary in the EAC Affairs ministry Ken Obura to cool tempers.

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Mr Obura was representing EAC Affairs Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed, the chair of the Council.

He told The EastAfrican that the concerns raised by Mr Namara in a motion seeking to halt the recruitment, which couldn’t be debated last week due to a contrived lack of quorum following a walkout by Ugandan MPs and their allies, are being resolved.

“We sat with the Speaker, leadership of the Assembly movers of the motion and all the partner states and resolved the matter. So the Community is moving forward,” said Mr Obura. “Everybody will definitely get their share of benefits from the Community.”

Kadaga cited irregularities in the hiring process and offered to take up the matter at the Council.

“The Council is fully seized of this matter. It is our responsibility and we undertake to handle it expeditiously in the interest of the Community,” she said.

Mr Namara still insists on the quota system in recruitment, but the EAC Secretariat has indicated that the Council of Ministers wants the recruitment conducted through a competitive process.

“The 42nd Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the East African Community Council of Ministers held in May 2021, approved the filling of the vacant positions in the EAC Organs and Institutions through competitive recruitment,” said a statement from the Secretariat.

“More than 15,000 applications were received from all the six EAC Partner States. All EAC partner states’ delegates profiled/sorted and subsequently shortlisted candidates.”

Mr Namara, chairperson of the EALA General Purpose Committee, says that while Uganda doesn’t have an interest in the position of Clerk to the Assembly, the marks of the interviewees for the post were altered to favour a candidate from Tanzania.

“We are not fighting for a clerk’s post. We are talking about the whole system because there are 64 advertised positions and we cannot fight for only one,” said Mr Namara.

He said that the shortlisted candidates for the advertised posts were unevenly distributed among the partner states.

“From Rwanda there were 53 candidates, Burundi 35, South Sudan 13, Kenya 72 and Tanzania 82. From Uganda, they shortlisted 53,” said Mr Namara.

“Tanzanians were shortlisted for all but five positions. In certain positions, a single candidate is shortlisted. What does that tell you? You would rather shortlist them, allow fairness and let the best person take up the job based on the quota system as well,” he added.

He cited a job at the Lake Victoria Basin where a relative of a senior EAC official was allegedly the only one shortlisted and another one of Hansard Editor for which a single candidate was put forward.

“Some of those shortlisted do not qualify as per the requirements of the advertisements. The only explanation is corruption,” he said.

Mr Namara is blaming EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki and Deputy Secretary-General in charge of Finance and Administration Steve Mlote, in whose docket human resources issues fall, saying the electronic system should have been used to vet and shortlist the candidates.

Mr Mlote declined to comment on the matter and instead referred The EastAfrican to Dr Mathuki.

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