The first week of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) sitting in Kigali started off on the wrong footing as members have persisted on a continual adjournment until an indiscipline case against one member is tabled before the House.
Some members of the Assembly told The New Times yesterday that no House business would proceed until the Speaker takes steps to address what they termed as “gross misconduct” on the part of MP Shy Rose Bhanji from Tanzania.
The members accuse the Speaker Margret Nantongo Zziwa of inaction. This is the latest development following the recent bickering.
In June, a section of the regional parliamentarians tried to impeach the Speaker for alleged incompetence and abuse of office.
Just like Wednesday’s sitting, yesterday afternoon’s plenary session was adjourned within 15 minutes.
According to MP Abubakr Adbi Ogle from Kenya, trouble began during a visit by a section of the members of the Assembly to the European Union Parliament in Brussels, which coincided with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague earlier this month.
A section of the delegation led by Ogle travelled from Brussels to The Hague to attend Kenyatta’s hearing.
This move did not go down well with MP Bhanji, who is said to have verbally attacked the members, describing them as supporters of a ‘criminal.’
“She began by accusing us in our absence of absconding from duty to attend to private matters. The next day she continued her attacks, this time at members and partner states. She was like a loose cannon firing in all direction,” Ogle told this paper.
Bhanji is also accused of insulting three presidents of the region.
MP Christophe Bazivamo, from Rwanda, who claimed he also fell victim to insults from Bhanji, told The New Times that at one point, members almost went physical.
“We were aboard a bus when Bhanji attacked members who had travelled to The Hague. Patricia Hajabakiga [Rwanda] tried to explain to her that there was completely nothing wrong with members going to The Hague and suddenly Bhanji directed insults at her,” said Bazivamo.
“In the process, she abused and insulted the Presidents of Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi.”
“In the process of abusing Hajabakiga, a member from Uganda intervened and told Bhanji that she had no moral authority to insult others, and that’s when the two almost went physical. Everyone intervened but the Speaker just sat and looked on.”
Bhanji was absent during yesterday’s sitting and several efforts made by this paper to reach her by press time were futile.
By press time, Speaker Zziwa, could not be reached for comment on the allegations.
But MP Fred Mukasa Mbidde, from Uganda, told The New Times that the indiscipline issues would be discussed during Monday’s Legal, Rules and Privileges Committee meeting to see to it that issues stalling the House business are ironed out.
“I will raise the issue of indiscipline and misconduct by way of motion so that cases of members who might have crossed the line can be addressed. The Monday meeting will enable us to iron out matters before the House and stop unnecessary interruption,” Mbidde said.
Although he was not present during Bhanji’s alleged misconduct, Mbidde said investigations would be conducted as it was not a minor accusation.
Mbidde said on resolution of the misconduct cases, the Assembly will brace itself for extra work as they will have to undertake the matters before them in the remaining one week.
Jeremie Ngendakumana, from Burundi, said members have vowed not to proceed with work until the issue concerning Bhanji is decided.
“Insulting three presidents is not something we are just going to let pass. We will have to push until this issue is solved,” he said.
If the Tanzanian legislator is found guilty, she will likely be suspended from some sittings.
Among the House businesses interrupted include presentation of the report of the Committee on Communication, Trade and Investment, the EAC Cooperative Societies Bill, as well as the report of the Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution and the African Leadership Centre Conference on East Africa Societies and Regional Security.