A university degree has been scrapped from the requirements for one to be a candidate for the position of the Rwandan member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) under the new bill, the Minister of Local Government has said. Minister Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi made the remarks on Wednesday, August 10, while speaking to the media, after the Plenary Sitting of the Senate approved the relevance of the bill. The Plenary Sitting of the Senate approved the relevance of the bill. It will be scrutinised by a responsible Senatorial committee prior to being voted into law by the Senate Plenary. The draft organic law was sent to the Senate for consideration after the Chamber of Deputies approved it on August 8, this time without a degree requirement. Government first tabled it before the lower chamber on August 4. Initially, the Government proposed in the bill that a Rwandan candidate for EALA must fulfill requirements including holding at least a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification or have held a senior managerial position in the public service, private sector or in civil society. Other requirements include being a Rwandan by nationality; be at least 21 years old; and being a person of integrity. But, some MPs expressed concern that the academic criterion could lock out some interested Rwandans to compete for being EALA lawmakers. On Wednesday, Gatabazi said that the university education requirement should not be a barrier for Rwandans to represent their country in the regional parliamentary affairs. On the question of whether the removal of that academic requirement might not pose a concern to the realisation of the Government’s objective to get competent representatives in the regional parliament, Gatabazi said that could not be the case. “That cannot be an issue because the electorate knows where they are sending their representative. The candidates also know the entity in which they are to work,” he said, suggesting that the EALA’s work, including analysing laws concerning the increasing number of EAC member countries, requires a certain level of knowledge. EALA is the independent, legislative arm of the Community (EAC), a bloc which comprises seven Partner States – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (the block’s newest member). Meanwhile, Gatabazi said that a university degree does not guarantee the ideal representation of the country in the regional parliament. “A person might only have completed secondary school, but they have vast knowledge in languages, did a lot of work in different sectors such as having served as a senator or a deputy, a local leader for long, and represented the country in various capacities,” he said, indicating that such can earn them the opportunity to represent Rwanda. “So, if you impose a bachelor’s degree requirement, you will be denying them the opportunity, yet they might have greater competency than a PhD holder,” he said. Election due September this year The election of the MPs to represent Rwanda in EALA is due to take place in September this year, Gatabazi said. He indicated the current MPs’ term will end in December this year, pointing out that new MPs should be voted before that time in order to avoid a gap that might be created in case that does not happen. Rwanda is represented by nine MPs in EALA, including 6 elected from among the candidates presented by political organisations, a representative of women, a representative of youth, and a representative of people with disabilities. They are elected by the Plenary of both Chambers of the Parliament (Senate and Chamber of Deputies), in the presence of at least three-fifths of the members of each.