EALA not giving up on bills returned by Tanzania

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EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega (L) and Stephen Gasana, senior clerk assistant during a session last week. / Timothy Kisambira

Regional lawmakers have told Sunday Times that they will not give up on three draft laws that Tanzania declined to assent to and returned to the House last October.

On Thursday, during the last session of the Third East African Legislative Assembly in Kigali, it was announced that Tanzania returned three bills citing various reasons.

The Bills are the Electronic Transactions Bill and the EAC Creative and Cultural Industries Bill, both authored by MP Dr James Ndahiro (Rwanda), and the EAC Forest Management and Protection Bill previously introduced by former lawmaker Christophe Bazivamo before he became a Deputy Secretary General.

According to Dr Ndahiro, “there are technocrats in the ministry in Tanzania who are only opposed to private members’ bills with no sound reason.

“There is no reason really. These bills will all go back to the Summit as we are now going to sit as a committee and review and send them back,” Dr Ndahiro told Sunday Times.

The Assembly got communication from Tanzania that the Electronic Transactions Bill was returned because matters pertaining to electronic transactions are dealt with by the EAC task force on harmonization of cyber laws.

Tanzania further reasons that prior to enacting any law on electronic transactions; a situation analysis has to be carried out in order to identify the gaps available in the national laws of partner states.

With regards to the Creative and Cultural Industries Bill, which was passed last August, Tanzania returned it saying it contravenes provisions in some articles of the EAC treaty. Tanzania also further reasoned that by establishing the EAC creative industry council, and creative industry development fund, this will impose charges to the Community fund.

On Thursday, MP Valerie Nyirahabineza (Rwanda), chairperson of the Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources (ATNR), read reasons why Tanzania returned the EAC Forest Management and Protection Bill.

“The united republic of Tanzania returned the bill citing the non-ratification by some partner states of the protocol on the environment and natural resources. It therefore advised that the regional law on forest management and protection should await policy guidelines from the council,” Nyirahabineza said.

When a bill is passed by the House, the Speaker’s office notifies the Heads of State requesting them to assent to it.

Speaker Daniel Kidega told the Assembly that: “Legislating for the Community is a shared responsibility between the Assembly and the Presidents of the Partner States. Once we pass Bills, the Heads of State assent to or withhold their assent to such bills.”

Article 63 of the EAC Treaty gives direction on how the assent procedure is handled.

It states that Heads of State may assent to or withhold assent to a Bill of the Assembly. A Bill that has not received assent within three months from the date on which it was passed by the Assembly shall be referred back to the Assembly, giving reasons, and with a request that the Bill or a particular provision thereof be reconsidered by the Assembly.

If the Assembly discusses and approves the Bill, the Bill shall be resubmitted to the Heads of State for assent.

“If a Head of State withholds assent to a re-submitted Bill, the Bill shall lapse,” the clause partly states. 

This implies that the Bills could face further hurdles especially after a bad precedent was set when the EAC Trans-boundary Ecosystems Bill 2010, passed in 2012, died a natural death after going through similar circumstances. The Bill which was authored by Dr. George Francis Nangale (Tanzania) aimed at, among others, guaranteeing the sustainable use of shared natural resources.

Only Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda assented to it and it was never sent to Burundi for assent after Tanzania declined to sign it.   

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