On December 19, Rwanda’s MARTIN NGOGA was elected Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).
The election was dogged by protests by Tanzanian and Burundian representatives who also had candidates for the coveted job. The 49-year-old lawyer and member of the world football governing body, Fifa’s ethics committee, spoke to Sadab
Kitatta Kaaya in Arusha, Tanzania. Excerpts:-
Your election was characterised by walk-outs probably due to the acrimonious relations between some of the partner EAC states. How do you look at the future of the community?
I think the EAC [East African Community] has capacity and mechanisms to resolve any challenges it may face from time to time. This is one of the challenges [though] there is nothing officially on record as to why these partner states decided to walk out.
The most important thing is that we have mechanisms in place; we have procedures, we have roles, and we have instruments that will always guide us through what may appear to be areas of disagreement.
Burundi and Tanzania are clearly against your speakership…
We don’t know yet what their reasons are. You may recall that we repeatedly put a question to the clerk [Kenneth Madete] as to whether he was in receipt of any official communication as to why members from the two partner states were not present and he said no. The assembly is a rules-based House.
Whatever we do, whatever decisions we take, we have to be guided by the rules. There is going to be a lot of effort to get everyone on board, but we have to operate within our Rules of Procedure.
This is not a matter exclusively for the assembly. Those other organs that can be involved to address the challenge will be requested to come in.
But some members feel the assembly’s autonomy must be guarded against the summit’s interference…
Of course, the autonomy of the assembly is a matter of the [EAC] Treaty and none of us has powers to compromise the autonomy of the assembly. But what I am telling you could be done in and outside the assembly. It is not in contradiction with the autonomy of the assembly.
There are calls for amendment of Eala’s Rules of Procedure. What do you find problematic with the rules?
There is no law that cannot be revisited… Well, if there is any member who thinks the rules need to be amended, that was his or her opinion.
The issue of whether or not we should amend the Rules of Procedure is not a serious matter for me, because at any point in time members will have different ways of looking at the rules or the administration of the Eala Act, and any other instrument that we use to run our mandate.
So, I’m not in a position to tell you whether we need to amend the rules or not. That is an operational detail that is going to be addressed as and when it comes.
This is your second term at Eala; do you see any need to amend any of the assembly’s Rules of Procedure?
As far as I am concerned…I don’t see any serious issue with the rules. I don’t see any difficulties in terms of interpretation; including the Treaty itself. I think the challenges we are facing, in my view, are not a result of any ambiguity in the relevant instruments. Their clarity and interpretation is obvious, but of course, people can have different interpretations.
Looking at issues that played out ahead of your election as speaker, one can’t miss the misunderstandings between your home country and Burundi. Doesn’t this affect the spirit of the EAC integration?
There were no fights in the House; it was the usual way of debating. There could have been heated arguments but that is how parliaments work. We have seen in parliaments of some partner states where people exchange blows but that didn’t happen here.
Because your question is premised on our proceedings on [December 19 and 20], there was no suggestion of that nature, and I don’t want to speculate on what could be the reason because those people who took the steps they took are in position to explain.
How do you plan to move without representatives from Burundi taking up their positions on the commission (administrative arm of Eala)?
We have elected members who were duly nominated and the elections took place according to the Rules of Procedure of the assembly. We will have more meetings of members who were elected [to the commission].