Members of the East African Legislative Assembly late Tuesday passed a draft law which aims to, among others, guide functions on taking of oaths in relation to people appointed to serve in organs or institutions of the six-member East African Community.
The legislation, which is the first to be passed by the house under Speaker Martin Ngoga, was passed after a lengthy debate at the ongoing seating in the Tanzanian capital Dodoma.
"This is our maiden piece of legislation and it is historic for the fourth EALA. We are also lucky as it is the first Bill originating from the Council of Ministers,” said Ngoga.
He commended his colleagues for accepting to put in a few more hours.
Julius Maganda, the chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, acknowledged that it was the first piece of legislation they brought to the Assembly and commended the focus and speed with which lawmakers worked on it.
The legislation was first introduced into the Assembly during the sitting in Kampala, Uganda, in February. It was read for the second time on March 15 in Arusha but debate was not concluded.
It was then referred for consideration to the committee on legal, rules and privileges chaired by MP Amb. Fatuma Ndangiza.
The committee held three meetings, one in Arusha and two in Dodoma, to consider proposals for sanctions for violations of oaths or affirmation, among others.
Objective of the Bill
The Bill aims to provide for the taking and administering of oaths in relation to specific persons appointed to serve in the organs or institutions of the EAC or required to take oath before giving evidence in the East African Court of Justice.
Ndangiza told The New Times that there is need for such legislation since there is a gap, and every EAC organ was doing things its own way, a situation that calls for harmonisation.
"Furthermore, important institutions had been ignored and, the Bill also clarifies issues since in the past, those who were not comfortable to take oath on religious basis were not catered for and this Bill now brings in affirmation.
"Affirmation implies that you can take oath but you don't have to hold a Bible, or Quoran".
Her committee defined affirmation as the act of confirming something to be true, or a written or oral statement that confirms that something is true. They consider affirmation to be a solemn declaration which is not necessarily under oath that is permitted to someone who has conscientious objections to taking oaths.
According to Ndangiza, the Bill is very important in advancing the bloc's integration agenda since taking oath is a declaration of commitment.
"It is a declaration that by taking oath you are going to abide by the rules and procedures; you are committed to the integration agenda. It also goes a long way to ensure discipline".
Among other things, lawmakers on Tuesday noted that until a specific law on confidential information or secrecy is developed, there are other laws in the Community.