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At the moment, the most topical issue within the context of the East African Community arena is disagreement among politicians over who should represent their country at EALA -the community’s legislative arm.
And this writer is not surprised that the controversy over political party representation or misrepresentation is from nowhere else other than our neighboring Uganda.
The standoff now is on how many of the nine seats allotted to each member state the ruling NRM take and how many seats shall will be left for the eligible opposition parties. Why had this controversy not been raised when the outgoing legislators were elected? Wouldn’t it be unfair for the competent political parties that weren’t represented at an important forum?
Of course, as one legal academia put it: “Equity befits the vigilant”- meaning that if the eligible claimants kept quiet, their rights were downtrodden- as simple as that. So had it not been for a brave and foresighted member of the Uganda opposition Democratic Party (D.P) who dragged the Ugandan government to the East African Court of Justice on the country’s illegal representation at the legislative assembly, the error wouldn’t have been seen and later on rectified.
Well, as expected, the regional court’s ruling on the issue was fair and impartial to the effect that all political parties with representation in their national parliaments must also be represented at the EALA in accordance with the dictates of Article 50 of the East African Community Treaty.
Previously, Ugandan , Parliament’s Rules of Procedure currently under review stipulated that parties share the nine EALA slots according to numerical strength. That translated into a 7:2 ratio between the ruling party (NRM) and the biggest opposition party (FDC). The smaller political parties, like UPC, DP, JEEMA and CP, were not considered.
But as the political maneuvering and haggling still goes on in Kampala between the divergent factions, time is quickly tickling to May 30, the deadline for the nominations for the countries that haven’t yet resolved the standoff.
The other contentious issue is the anxiously awaited political federation of the five member states under one omnipotent federal Head of State. As the integration gets to an advanced level political pundits have fears that the unknown could ruin the process if not addressed on time.
And this was evident when speakers from the five member country recently clashed on the fast tracking of the integration process during a meeting of regional parliamentary speakers held at Rwanda’s Parliamentary Buildings here in Kigali.
What really appeared evident is that there are two divergent views on the proposed political federation. One school of thought favours the progressive integration process while the other argues political federation should be fast tracked.
But the political federation dream may not be realized unless parties involved manage to make difficult decisions, including giving up some degree on the traditional state sovereignty. On a serious not what was agreed upon in principle by the partner states must be seen in practical terms. Countries cannot want to integrate and also want to keep 100 per cent independent and sovereign.
For the bigger common good to be attained in the interests of the over 133 million citizens in the bloc, something has to be given up. The funny alternative is to keep sovereignty over poverty, international inferiority or to integrate and become a bigger entity, economically more viable and politically relevant.
The sacrifices also translates into a bigger voice at the international arena and have something to offer—a bigger market, larger investments and higher income per capita for the beneficiary citizens. Put in a scientific perspective, a sick person must swallow the biter pills to recover from sickness. So the governments of all the member states ought to surrender their enormous powers over integration process and allow more mandate of decision making at the center.
Nevertheless, the most urgent and pertinent issue to be addressed is the economic aspect, specifically free movement of goods, services and persons from ports and between borders. Business communities especially from the landlocked Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are incurring unnecessary costs due to the hurdles endured in transit process.
The integration process shall only be people-centered as enshrined in the Treaty if these socio-economic concerns like free co-existence and movement of people, minimized inflation on the entire EAC bloc. Unfortunately, except in Rwanda and Kenya where all citizens of majority age have national identity cards, Tanzania and Ugandan governments have remain indifferent about it and it’s costly on free movement of persons between all borders.
Equally important in the interest of the citizens and the economies is agreeing on mechanisms and establishing a regional central bank and having a single monetary currency to make business easier. Otherwise, why all this resistance among bureaucrats, tedious and time-wasting?
Yes. There are lame excuses like Tanzania saying: “Our country is big with broad borders and, given its big population of more than 45 million people, integration into EAC is still a farfetched dream.
We are actually not reluctant. We are just not ready and need some more time. There is need to first talk to our people and be careful to educate them ….The country’s Speaker of parliament Hon. Makinda is quoted to have said! For God’s sake is it realistic for the legislator to say that it could take about two years to have national IDs available?
Isn’t within the mandate of the parliamentarians to educate and sensitize the constituents to accelerate the integration process? Well be it as it may, and though the integration is a gradual process, it is equally crucial to set and beat the deadline if we the citizens are to benefit from the initiative. If the process is not speeded up it will lose the meaning like a white elephant in a Chinese shop.
Contact email: Bugisr@yahoo.com
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