Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Unity Platform-NUP is not in a hurry to choose a candidate for the East African Legislative Assembly-EALA due to the absence of the required guidelines, the Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga has revealed.
The East African Legislative Assembly-EALA is an organ of the East African Community-EAC established under Article 9 of the treaty. The Assembly has a membership comprising nine members elected by each partner state; ex-officio members consisting of the Minister or Assistant Minister responsible for the East African Community Affairs from each partner state; the Secretary-General and the Counsel to the Community.
Currently, the Assembly has 54 elected members and 8 ex-officio members totalling 62. Each of the East African Community member countries has to send nine legislators to the Arusha-based Assembly. The term of the current EALA members ends this year and elections are scheduled for December.
Speaking to Uganda Radio Network-URN, Mpuuga said that the leading Opposition political party in Parliament owes other opposition political parties a duty not to nominate candidates immediately.
“That is why we are not in a hurry. What is so clear is that the East African Community Treaty is very unequivocal as to who qualifies to send a member to the East African Parliament. And the manner in which we have been doing it here in Uganda was declared illegal and against the spirit of the law or the treaty by the East African Court of justice,” said Mpuuga.
The Nyendo-Mukungwe MP said that in compliance with the adjudication of the Arusha court, he last year moved a motion on the floor of parliament, which was adopted to the effect that Parliament’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline moves to amend the House rules so as to comply with the ruling of the court.
Mpuuga says that the amendment of the rules would eventually help the elections to depict the shades of opinion in the House as per the treaty and rulings of the court.
Some of the opposition political parties have already started nominating candidates for EALA. Recently, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) nominated Harold Kaija as their candidate for the EALA race.
Uganda People’s Congress-UPC also nominated Fred Ebil, while Democratic Party nominated its acting Secretary-General Gerald Siranda. Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson also says that it is their view that there is misrepresentation of the East African Community Treaty because the treaty talks about sending representatives to EALA that are representative of the shades in the House but the ruling party misinterpret it hence posing a challenge.
“For example, the Forum for Democratic Change-FDC in the last 10 years has not had representation because they have in many ways pushed them out. So, Mr Museveni sits and determines who he wants. All the 9, the 6 that belong to NRM and he then says…okay…we will choose a good DP, a good UPC and a good Independent and that kind of thing,” Ssenyonyi said.
The Nakawa West MP said that this is a challenge, adding discussions are ongoing in NUP internally to see how to handle the matter.
Medard Lubega Sseggona, the Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said that the chairperson of the Rules Committee was asked to start the process of amending the rules last year and that this has not happened.
He said that the Opposition has an option of pushing Parliament to amend the rules and ensure that the representation is fair because the slots at EALA are enough for all parties with representation in the House currently.
Sseggona, who represents Busiro East in Parliament, said that besides the rules, some of these matters are for compromise, noting that NUP and FDC have been singled out for harassment.
Sseggona made the comment at the Opposition MPs retreat at Imperial Botanical Hotel in response to Jinja West Division MP, Dr Timothy Batuwa who asked about the process towards ensuring that Uganda amends the Parliament rules so as to conform with the East African Treaty in regard to EALA.
“Am told that in a very short time, we shall be going for those elections and this would be an opportunity…now that we are here, as the Opposition we need to see how the rules of procedure can be amended,” said Batuwa. He emphasized that all political parties need to be fairly represented at the EALA.
Out of the 529 members in the 11th Parliament, the Opposition has 109 legislators. NUP has the biggest number of Opposition MPs totalling 57, followed by FDC which has 32, Democratic Party- DP 9, UPC 9, JEEMA 1 and People’s Progressive Party-PPP 1.
The ruling NRM party has the biggest representation in Parliament with 336 MPs.