EDITORIAL: New EALA team should drum up renewed momentum to advance integration agenda

Rwanda yesterday picked its nine representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), leaving Kenya the only member state yet to elect its representatives to the regional economic community parliament.

While some EALA members have had their mandates renewed by another five years, essentially to ensure continuity at the Assembly, the majority of the members are newcomers and will be expected to freshen things up.

As expected, Rwanda’s representatives were picked from different constituencies, including political organisations, the youth and persons living with disabilities. This is in keeping with the national policy of inclusion and representation of all facets of society — one of the best practices that continue to define post-Genocide Rwanda.

The outgoing Assembly did a commendable job in many aspects, but they also struggled to live up to public expectations in some instances, often due to differences that derailed key bills, including that on the ban of the use of plastic bags across the six-nation bloc.

Nonetheless, they were mostly united in seeking action on several important issues, even as that did not necessarily always result into breakthroughs as ultimate decision-making often rested elsewhere.

But EALA has not always been without flaws. In the recent years, the Assembly was rocked by a string of wrangles that resulted in the ouster of then speaker. That was followed by a period of relative calm but it meant that the Assembly was now playing catch-up as it had lost a lot of time bickering.

The latest round of EALA elections will be expected to usher in a new team that is keen on drawing valuable lessons from the past with view to steering clear of the mistakes of their predecessors and delivering on their mandate accordingly.

The new Assembly will need to recommit to the dream of the East African Community and help deliver a bloc that’s anchored on the aspirations and wishes of the people of East Africa. Integration should be their catchword. The EALA legislators must serve as the custodians of the integration agenda. They must take the lead in ironing out the differences among the partners that continue to lurk, undermining the bloc’s unity and objectives.

As the people’s representatives, the Assembly needs to stand up to partners and players that deviate from the common purpose and jealously protect the gains made thus far. They should reject stagnation and hesitation in the implementation of decisions that are pertinent to the achievement of a united, borderless EAC.

The Assembly has a responsibility to instill a renewed sense of urgency in the integration agenda by fast-tracking the enactment of legislations that are key to the process and holding the other organs of the bloc to account when they fall short.