22 September 2017

East Africa: EALA Misses Sitting as It Awaits Kenyan Members

Delay in composition of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) chapter of Kenyan has affected start of the regional Assembly plenary sitting.

The fourth EALA was supposed to be sworn in on June 5 but this did not happen because Kenya had not elected its nine representatives.

Bobi Odiko, the Assembly's senior public relations officer, told The New Times yesterday that EALA cannot be constituted until all partner states are represented.

Apart from Kenya, all the other EAC partner states have elected their nine representatives each to the regional parliament.

Odiko said that given the processes involved, a month or two could suffice to complete the elections.

"Work has no doubt been affected by the delay," Odiko said.

Some 13 pieces of legislation are part of the work the fourth EALA will consider when it finally opens.

Pieces of legislation left unfinished by the third EALA include the EAC Whistleblowers Protection Bill 2016, which is intended to provide a mechanism to investigate corruption in addition to protecting east Africans who expose alleged wrongdoing.

Martin Ngoga, a Rwandan representative, admitted that the delay means that their annual planning will be adjusted.

"The Assembly should be working all the time. There are budget processes that may not happen without the involvement of the Assembly," Ngoga said.

By this time committee activities working on budgets should be ongoing, he told The New Times, adding that in the days ahead, there will be statutory and mandatory activities in which the Assembly must take part.

"Routine activities can be accommodated in the adjusted calendar but there are mandatory activities that are time-bound and specific," Ngoga said.

"We understand from public sources that the authorities in Kenya are taking steps to get their representatives to EALA elected as a priority activity in their new Assembly."

Once the new Assembly convenes, its immediate activities will include election of the Speaker and members to the EALA Commissions.

After Kenya's Supreme Court annulled the August 8 re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta the second ballot is supposed to go ahead by October 31 - the constitutional deadline.

But officials say this does not affect election of EALA members since Kenya now has a functional parliament that picks representatives to the regional Assembly.

"Ideally, it should not be an issue since the Kenyan parliament has its own calendar, which is separate from that of the executive," said Odiko.

However, Odiko noted, both processes "revolve around politics" and may be intertwined.

Kenya's 12th parliament was sworn in on August 31.

"We are convinced that the Assembly will keep it on its priority list of things to do. The Speaker of the Kenya Parliament confirmed to EALA and other partner states that this would be a priority," Odiko said.

An August 10 letter from the Kenyan parliament to other partner states' national parliaments, a copy of which The New Times has seen, said it is "mindful of the urgency of conclusion of the process" of electing Kenya's members to EALA.

The letter said as soon as both houses of parliament are constituted, they will expedite the process [election] with view to ensuring that the matter is concluded without further delay.

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