Monday, March 30, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
March 29, 2009

I know this article may rub our honorable MPs in Arusha the wrong way. Like most public servants, they are right to be a little averse to public criticism; a natural thing for any person in position of influence to feel.

Sometimes last year, I wrote an article critical of our regional legislators’ parochial behavior when tackling regional issues. Much as I told them off for focusing on their national interests at the expense of pressing regional matters, my plea was for them to take the larger interests of the Community citizens as they debated and haggled over the services of the Community.

Since then, I have met many of our EALA legislators in various forums in Bagamoyo, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi at which quite a number of them brought up the issue of my earlier article along with other issues of concern.

My understanding of the role of the regional assembly is a simple one; to pass laws that will logically guide the Community into eventual realization of its treaty protocols and integration. Any Assembly activities that will not steer the Community in this path will be a waste of the Community’s scarce public resources.

The starting point is how to effectively use the current budget allocation of U$ 32 million that the partner states pump into the Community every year. This amount may not be much to finance all the operations of the Community but it must be seen as the starting point. If it is not used in more tangible ways rather than endless merry-go-round workshops year in year out; partner states may never see the need to up this budget.

One of the core responsibilities of the Regional Assembly is to scrutinize, pass and control the EAC budget such that the Secretariat does not engage in worthless expenditures that do not add value or make sense to tax payers across the region.
The reason I say this is because reports flying around tell of disturbing stories about the behavior of some of our regional legislators.

It is reported that quite a number of them have started playing truant with their duties. They fly into capitals for deliberations but don’t stay beyond a few hours after collecting their allowances. They either go shopping or fly out to other destinations to attend to their personal matters. The situation is so serious at times that various committees sometimes cannot form a quorum!

Other than this fraudulent behavior, I read a distressing story in a Ugandan newspaper about two Ugandan female MPs that decided to exchange obscenities in a public restaurant in Arusha over an issue that was obviously below their dignity.
Just as a reminder of their responsibility to the people of East Africa; honorable Tiperu and Byamukama must remember that wherever they are, they must be aware that they are East Africa’s best examples to be emulated by our younger generation. They must resist the base temptation to fight over their subordinates in public restaurants in Arusha.

That aside, it is our hope that our regional legislators will enact laws that will strengthen the operations of the Community. They need to put pressure on national parliaments to appoint Ministers specific to the Community and those ministers must not double up as cabinet members in their countries. We have to revert to the 1977 system when regional ministers were above national politics. These Ministers and their Permanent secretaries together with their staff should be residents in Arusha for better results.

They must pass a law to empower rotating Summit Chairs to have some executive powers during their tenure the same way the EU Presidents do their job. During such tenure, the Chair must spend a considerable amount of time working from Arusha, holding cabinet meetings with his five cabinet ministers and consulting regularly with all arms of the regional government in Arusha such as the EALA, the East African Court of Justice and the Secretariat.

More importantly, our EALA members must be persons that look at the big picture, visionary and wholly committed to the EAC. Right now we have some members who are in the Assembly without having gone to school. Instead of attending sessions in Parliament; they are busy attending Adult Education classes using tax payers' money.
Right now, we have some Kenyan EALA members who instead of concentrating on their jobs at Arusha are busy with village politics back home in the hope that they will be elected to the more lucrative Kenyan Parliament in 2012! This divided loyalty will never move our region forward.

Either you are in Arusha serving the entire regional interest or you are out. You cannot have your cake and eat it! That is the way it is.