20 January 2018

East Africa: Stalemate Ahead of East African Parliament Plenary

Burundi's continued refusal to recognise Rwanda's Martin Ngoga as the elected Speaker of the 4th assembly of the East African Legislative Assembly is likely to dominate the session of the House, which sits from Monday in Kampala.

Divisions preceded the Speaker's election on December 19 last year, with Burundian and Tanzanian legislators boycotting the exercise that saw Mr Ngoga, a former Prosecutor General of Rwanda, take the mantle from Uganda's Dan Kidega.

Burundian Minister in charge of the East African Community Isabelle Nahayo, said last week that Bujumbura does not recognise the current Speaker "because regulations governing the community were not respected."

On December 29, 2017, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza said the Speaker's election did not respect the regulations governing the EAC, stating that under the rotation system, Burundi should have come first, based on the alphabetical order.

"I guess there were other unknown motives behind the election. Uganda was the previous chair of the Assembly. Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan could not present their candidates at the time", said President Nkurunziza, adding that his government would not accept the results.

Rotation system

Despite Burundi's boycott, one of its members Leontine Nzeyimana remained in the race (he was not in the House but did not withdraw his candidature), in a way legitimising Mr Ngoga's election, while Tanzania's Adam Kimbisa also stayed in the race.

Under the rotation system, Rwanda and Burundi were in line to take over the speakership. As explained by the Clerk to the Assembly Mr Kenneth Madete, the winner of the speakership is supposed to garner at least 36 out of 54 possible votes.

According to Rule 12 of the Rules of Procedure of the House, quorum of the House or the Committee of the whole House shall be half of the elected Members and such quorum shall be composed of at least one third of the elected members from each partner state.

This meant that since 18 members from Tanzania and Burundi had pulled out, a total of 36 members were present, which makes the quorum, and since Nzeyimana had not withdrawn his candidature, the election went ahead after the initial adjournment on December 18.

The controversial part was when the Clerk explained that the winner does not necessarily have to garner all the 36 votes because the House rules say that there would be a run off between the first two candidates with the majority votes.

In the first round of voting, Mr Ngoga got 35 votes while only one vote was cast in favour of Mr Nzeyimana, leading to a contested run off. In the second round, Mr Ngoga polled 33 votes against Mr Nzeyimana's three votes, and was declared the winner by the Clerk and effectively sworn in.

EALA says it followed the Rules of Procedure and called for a second round of voting since no candidate had amassed the requisite two-thirds of the votes cast (36 out of 54).

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