East Africa: EAC Ministers Step in to Resolve Recruitment Disputes

20 October 2021

Ministers in charge of East African Community (EAC) affairs on Tuesday, October 19, pledged to address issues causing a standoff in the ongoing staff recruitment exercise.

Some regional lawmakers have alleged that the process was marred with irregularities and unfair treatment of citizens from some countries.

The EAC Secretariat, the executive organ of the six-member regional economic community, also issued a statement stating that the bloc "is committed to providing an equal opportunity for all East Africans."

It all follows a standoff in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in Arusha, Tanzania, where Ugandan lawmakers staged walkouts last week due to what they consider as an unfair recruitment process.

Speaker Martin Ngoga was forced to suspend sittings last week due to lack of quorum.

Ngoga spent the better part of Tuesday afternoon in consultations with the Council of Ministers.

Late in the afternoon, the plenary started and Ugandan lawmaker, Denis Namara, tabled a motion seeking for a resolution of the Assembly recommending to the Council of Ministers to suspend and audit the ongoing staff recruitment exercise due to irregularities and unfair treatment of citizens from Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

Namara justified his motion noting that, among others, the principle of quota system was not followed and where it was followed, it eliminated some partner states.

The Chairperson of the Council, Ken Obura, the Chief Administrative Secretary in Kenya's Ministry of EAC Affairs and Regional Development, requested the Assembly to allow the Ministers to "address this matter in the best interest of the of the community, acting in the best interests of the citizens of the community."

Afterwards, before adjourning session, Ngoga said: "Basically, this motion is now where it belongs. There have been discussions with Council of Ministers and they are ready to discuss it, in the best interests of the Community."

The EAC Secretariat early this year advertised about 60 vacant positions.

According to the EAC Secretariat, the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers held in May approved the filling of vacant positions in various EAC organs and institutions through competitive recruitment.

In compliance with the directive of this May 19 Council meeting, the EAC Secretariat initiated the recruitment process by advertising the vacant positions.

More than 15,000 applications were received from all the six partner states and delegates profiled and subsequently shortlisted candidates.

Interviews were set to commence from October 18 to November 2, but could not commence as scheduled due to quorum.

"The interviews have therefore been postponed to a later date that will be communicated accordingly," reads the statement by the EAC Secretariat.

Earlier, Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda's Minister of State for EAC Affairs told The New Times that moving to halt the Council of Ministers' decision was wrong.

"Recruitment is a Council (of Ministers) decision. When the Council decision is started, the process is managed by the Secretariat and each partner state can give at least two people on a panel to interview the best candidates then forward to the Council to take the final decision. The Council can take any decision; it can be technical or political depending on the nature of the prevailing situation," Nshuti said.

"The problem now is that people are complaining during the recruitment process initiated by Council. This is wrong. The right thing is, allow the process to go on and intervene at Council level after Council has got feedback. In Council, we can meet and intervene because any partner state can say it doesn't agree on any decision. But, here, one has to provide ample proof for his or her point [of disproval of a Council decision]."

When found convincing, Nshuti said, a position can be reviewed, but the whole process cannot be reviewed.

"No country can block a decision of the Council, but a country can wait for the Council of Ministers to share facts on any interview they think went wrong. Even the heads of state cannot intervene in Council matters."

Problems started early last week in the Assembly largely over the hiring of a clerk and a deputy, with Namara at the forefront of staging walkouts.

The ongoing process of the recruitment of staff for the EAC in general is meant to fill positions that have remained vacant for some years, something the Council of Ministers is looking to correct.

MP Aden Omar Abdikadir from Kenya told The New Times that "unfortunately" there have been some complaints by some few individuals.

He said: "Hon Dennis Namara has put a motion to the House saying that there was noncompliance of the quarter system and things like. And I want to say that a lot of those positions have not even been interviewed. After the interview is done will we be able to know who has won for what positions and which countries therefore. So, it is difficult to tell now that there has been unfairness in filling up those positions."

"The acrimony is [due to the fact that] there are people wanting to say that the whole process of hiring all staff should be stopped until grievances are heard. But let me be honest with you, until the whole process is completed, it might be unfair to say that there can be any grievances because we are only at interview stages now."

Abdikadir does not think anything wrong was done. He also thinks it is all just a competition of partner state wanting to get a bigger share for themselves.

"As far as I am concerned we should wait for the Council process to conclude and they will report back to the community."

Last week, Uganda's EAC Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, wrote to the Secretary-General demanding that the interviews set for October 18 for various advertised jobs at the EAC organs and institutions be postponed until the Secretariat submits the available quota points for each partner state as at the time or date of advertising the jobs.

Abdikadir added: "We [EALA] have for a very long time reprimanded the Secretariat and the Council as to why they are delaying the process of filling up staff in the critical positions in the community. Therefore, at this point in time, it will not be fair for us to ask the Secretariat to hold or stop the process of recruitment. It is unfair. How can we now stop them?"

"We can only urge them to maintain, to ensure that all the rules and regulations of the community are abided by as the process goes through but we cannot ask them to stop the process."

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