Wednesday, June 11, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
At the beginning of the current life of this EALA, the operations of the Assembly together with that of the EAC came to a standstill due to the election fiasco brought about by political grandstanding in Kenyan parliament. At that time, the Government of National Unity decided to arrogantly usurp the powers of parliament and name all nominees to the Assembly against the standing orders of parliament.

As the stalemate persisted, the aggrieved LDP and other parties went to the East African Court of Justice, obtained an injunction and had the elections nullified. A rerun of the elections in Kenyan parliament did not produce any different result. The GNU arrogance persisted until the aggrieved parties gave up.

Two years later, a similar problem is brewing in Uganda. News filtering through the media indicate that a court ruling in Uganda has nullified the election of all Ugandan MPs to the EALA on account that the procedure followed was in breach of standing orders of the Ugandan parliament. Now it is just a matter of time before the Speaker is formally notified. If this happens, the seven seats will be declared vacant, paralyzing the operations of EALA and the EAC in the process.

But perhaps the most disturbing news was the story that appeared throughout East Africa that the same Ugandan MPs had attacked Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi on issues they had not crosschecked. An advertised response from Uganda’s EAC Minister was clear enough. These enthusiastic MPs had nothing better to do than rumormonger on imagined sins of the three partner states. They had accused Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi for dragging their feet with their contributions. Records made available by Uganda’s EAC Minister and the EAC Secretary General proved that these hotheads had not checked their facts.

The issues above call for a reexamination of the way we are building our regional institutions. As it is now, the composition of the EALA has been abused by local political interests back home. We have not sent the best brains and the best visionaries to the EALA to champion our regional cause. Instead, we have rewarded low level personnel, sometimes jobless street vagabonds to represent our interests there. This is the tragedy of our flawed EALA elections.

If at the national level we have been able to elect our councilors, MPs and Presidents, why is it so difficult to conduct elections for just nine EALA members in each member state? Kenyans, like Ugandans, Tanzanians, Burundians and Rwandans would like to see institutions like EALA, EACJ and the EAUC strengthened. To do this, we need to recruit and elect through a rigorous competitive process so that the most qualified are allowed to go through the process. We have to stop rewarding mediocrity if we are keen on saving our regional economic block.

Right now blind nationalism is threatening to derail the EAC process. People in positions of influence have withdrawn into their own tribal and national enclaves. They are busy eyeing one another with suspicion thinking that by advocating for local issues, they are scoring points with their local fans.

As Kenya wallowed in the miasma of post elections violence, as Tanzanians grapple with the unending Mwafaka problems in Zanzibar and Pemba, instead of using the Kenyan example to sort out the Island’s problem, we are busy beating the drums of war. Instead of East Africans putting their heads together to help Museveni solve the Joseph Kony problems in Northern Uganda we are busy in the streets of Nairobi trying to score points about who is senior between the Prime Minister and the Vice President!

For the East African Community to remain relevant, the EALA should be strengthened to have more controlling powers than the current council of ministers. Ideally the Council of ministers has no business reporting to the Summit of Heads of State. It should first and foremost be answerable to the EALA with a reporting line to the Summit just like national ministers are answerable to Parliament first then to the Head of State.

If we strengthen the EALA through direct elections, it can passing binding laws that will also help curb election malpractices, corruption, fraudulent activities and blatant rigging of elections by parties in power. A standard Electoral Commission to supervise elections in the five member states would not be a bad idea. It will save us the horror of having to deal with hordes of international observers whose only interest is to come here every by election to witness our pre-medieval chaos from time to time.