KIGALI - A joint Parliamentary session yesterday elected a nine-member team that will represent Rwanda in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA). Five of these delegates are women.
The elections, which were carried out by the 92 Senators and Deputies, saw two immediate former Cabinet Ministers land jobs with the regional assembly: Patricia Hajabakiga and Valérie Nyirahabineza.
Hajabakiga was State Minister for Lands and Environment while Nyirahabineza was Minister in the office of the Prime Minister in charge of Gender and Family Promotion.
The candidates came from political parties and special interest groups like the National Women’s Council, the National Federation for the Disabled and the National Youth Council.
Four candidates were selected from a coalition of political parties that include the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) while both the Liberal Party (PL) and the Socio-Democratic Party (PSD) had one representative each. Special interest groups also have one slot each.
Those elected from the coalition were; Hajabakiga, Sheikh Abdul Karim Harerimana, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi and Claire Kayirangwa.
Habumuremyi has been hitherto the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission while Harerimana and Kayirangwa were members of the lower Chamber of Parliament before they resigned towards the end of last year.
MPs elected Odette Nyiramirimo who contested for the slot with Georges Mupenzi, the spokesperson of the civil society.
Both were from PL. Nyiramirimo, who also served as a Cabinet Minister until 2003, has been a Senator until her new appointment.
From PSD, Jacquéline Muhongayire– who also resigned before the end of last year– was elected at the expense of former Cabinet Minister and academician, Alexandre Lyambabaje. The latter is a lecturer at the National University of Rwanda.
Muhongayire has been in Parliament for the last twelve years and was at one time the Deputy Speaker of the Transitional National Assembly.
On the Women’s ticket, former minister Nyirahabineza beat the chairperson of the National Woman’s Council, Odda Gasinzigwa, to the tape.
Dr. James Ndahiro was elected as the representative for the disabled while Straton Ndikuryera represents the youth in the Assembly.
“The fact that Rwanda has sent women as the majority of her representatives sends a strong message not only to the region but also to the whole world of the potential that women have,” Hajabakiga said briefly after the elections which took place at the parliamentary buildings.
She said she would work hard in her capacity to ensure that interests of the Rwandan people are protected during her tenure at the assembly based in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha. For Nyiramirimo, this is an opportunity to defend Rwandans on a broader forum.
“I will do my best to ensure that my country is well represented.” Before joining the government as a minister, Odette Nyiramirimo, was a medical practitioner.
Jacquéline Muhongayire said that her experience and the role she played in increasing Rwanda women representation in parliament will give her momentum to strive for women emancipation in the region.
The elected members, together with their counterparts from Burundi are expected to take oath today in the Kenyan Capital, Nairobi.
The EALA is the Legislative arm of the East African Community (EAC), a regional bloc that brings together Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Both Rwanda and Burundi became members of the EAC last year and had not sent their representatives because of lack of legislation for the procedure of the election of these representatives.