SUNDAY March 27, 2022
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Speaker, Mr Martin Ngoga, has condemned a tendency of putting national interests ahead of the integration agenda.
Mr Ngoga observed that the infamous tendency was inhibiting lateral philosophy and thinking beyond sentiments of the East African Community (EAC) partner states.
“Even if the matter will not be well appreciated back home, as long as it is in the best interests of the region. This is where we want to go as a region,” the EALA Speaker said.
Mr Ngoga said every EAC partner state elected nine members to the Arusha-based regional House to represent interests of the citizens of the entire bloc.
“The moment they are sworn in, they cease to represent their partner states,” stressed the Speaker when briefing a delegation from the Burundi government on the mandate of the House.
He said only ministers responsible for EAC Affairs, who were sworn in as ex-officio members, were duty bound to clarify issues pertaining to partner states in the assembly.
Even the ministers represented their partner states individually, but when they sat together as the EAC Council of Ministers, they ought to come with a position of the entire community.
The person chairing the EAC Council of Ministers, who should come from a partner state holding the rotational chair, is the one representing the position of the states to the assembly.
Mr Ngoga admitted that in practice, it became a challenge, as some regional lawmakers wanted to represent their partner states, stressing that an EALA member could make an opinion about any matter, but could not officially represent a state in the assembly.
Ms Domine Banyankimbona, the Justice Minister and Attorney General, led the Burundi Delegation to the headquarters to acquaint itself with activities of the organs of the bloc, namely the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the EAC Secretariat and the EALA.
Among other Burundi government officials, the minister was flanked by the President of the Supreme Court, Mr Emmanuel Gatereste, the Prosecutor General, Mr Sylvestre Nyandwi, and Justice Nestor Kayobera, the President of the EACJ, who hosted the delegation in Arusha.
“It’s unfortunate we are meeting when the assembly is not in session, I wish they were here so that you grace our proceedings in the same way you graced those of the court,” Mr Ngoga told the delegation.
Burundi being the next Chair of the community after Kenya, the visit of the delegation was timely, as it prepared the country for the role ahead, he said.
The Burundi delegation visited the EACJ in the first place where it was briefed on how people could access the court and heard a judgment of a case filed by a coalition of Tanzania’s opposition parties against their government.
Justice Kayobera told the delegation that heads of the three EAC organs closely worked together without one interfering with the mandate of the other and that whatever each organ did was in the interest of the people.
“Some have been asking the reason people get access to the court without exhausting local remedies contrary to the principle of international law,” Justice Kayobera observed.
He said partner states had in Article 7 of the EAC Treaty agreed that people could recourse to the court without exhausting their local remedies, as the community was people-centred and market driven.
The minister said the visit had given the Burundi delegation a clear understanding of operations of the community organs.
“We’re very impressed with the work of the EAC, as ambassadors we’ll convey the message to people of Burundi,” Ms Banyankimbona saidΩ