ARUSHA - The East African Community (EAC) Electoral Commissions have discussed ways of harmonizing the electoral processes in the five member-states of the regional bloc. This was during a meeting held at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha on May 6. It was the first meeting of heads of National Electoral Commissions convened under the auspices of the EAC, according to a press release from EAC.
“The Heads of National Electoral Commissions hailed the EAC Secretariat for the regional initiative and unanimously urged that their forum be formalised within the structures of the EAC,” the release reads in part.
The Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation), Beatrice Kiraso noted that the meeting was significant in setting the pace and structure of cooperation in political affairs including the consolidation of democracy among partner states.
The meeting also considered the development of a regional policy on the role of the EAC in promoting democratic principles and practices and consolidating the culture of democracy and adherence to the rule of law.
“They recommended to the Council of Ministers the formation of Heads of Electoral Commission’s Forum and incorporate its activities in the EAC Programmes and Calendar of Activities.
The role of such a forum would be mainly to initiate development of policies, strategies and programmes. This will help in harmonizing the laws, policies and strategies of National Electoral Commissions with a view to sharing information, expertise and election materials; and to share and harmonize their electoral calendars and road maps.
They recommended the establishment of a Sub-Committee of experts comprising of representatives from the National Electoral Commissions and the Ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs/ Attorneys General to develop a draft policy framework that detail among others; the Electoral Commissions Forum for the EAC Partner States, the mandate and role of the Forum; the institutional framework and structure of the forum; and the relationship between the forum, the EAC and the National Electoral Commissions.
They showed need for the EAC Secretariat to commission a study on the cost of conducting elections in the partner states with a view to reducing costs.
Meanwhile, at the meeting, it was learnt that Burundi had no permanent Electoral Commission and that plans were underway to form one.
It was reported that in Burundi a temporary National Independent Electoral Commission is normally formed within a period of four months prior to the elections.
A treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community provides for adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality as well as recognition of promotion and protection of human rights.
Rwanda was represented by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa.