Speakers from the East African Community (EAC) are optimistic that a new body on legislative matters, the East African Parliamentary Institute (EAPI), will help bolster capacity of lawmakers from around the bloc.
The creation of EAPI was announced at the closure of the EAC Bureau of Speakers’ 11th meeting last Friday in Arusha, Tanzania.
Operationalisation of the EAPI was high on agenda as the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Daniel Kidega took over the chair from Tanzanian Speaker Job Ndugai.
The EAC Speakers’ Bureau is the umbrella body under which EALA and national assemblies of partner states champion the cause of parliaments in the region: legislation, oversight and representation.
It also plays an advisory role to the Summit of the EAC Heads of State.
At the meeting, Rwandan Parliament was represented by deputy Speaker, Jeanne d’Arc Uwimaninpaye, while second deputy Speaker of the Burundi National Assembly, Edouard Nduwimana, represented his country.
Both the Speaker and president of the Kenya’s National Assembly and Senate, Justin Muturi and Ekwee Ethuro, respectively, and the president of the Burundi Senate, Reverien Ndikuriyo, were also in attendance.
According to a communiqué from EALA, the operationalisation of the East African Parliamentary Institute is expected in the next Financial Year once the EAPI Act, 2011, has been gazetted by the EAC Council of Ministers.
The one day EAC Bureau of Speakers meeting considered a number of key areas deemed important to the realization of EAC integration.
National legislatures and EALA are to commence on the process of budgeting within the Financial Year 2016/17 with the anticipated launch of EAPI in the pipeline.
Under the EAPI Act, 2011, the EAC Speakers form the Board of Trustees, and are expected to decide on where the proposed body shall be hosted and advise the Council of Ministers.
The Bureau of EAC Speakers amended the Rules of Procedures governing the Forum to, among others, include the Speakers and presidents of the Senate as members of the Forum.
Furthermore, the meeting underscored the need to enhance the functional relations between the national legislatures and EALA. National legislatures have continued to play their oversight role on matters EAC in their respective jurisdictions, including the need to expedite amendments to the EAC Treaty.
It was agreed that EALA submits proposed amendments to the Treaty it had submitted to the EAC Council of Ministers to the National Legislatures.
EALA Speaker Kidega reiterated the Bureau’s commitment to strengthening the role of EAC Parliaments in the integration process in line with the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC.
Speaking in Arusha, Uwamanimpaye commended the Bureau for creating an opportunity for Parliaments to assess the achievements made, share experiences and challenges facing Speakers in their line of duty. She noted that Rwanda made tremendous progress since it joined the EAC in 2007 and is reaping benefits of being part of the bloc.
Muturi said it was vital for EAC partner states to move towards the alignment of national political activities and trends with regional integration objectives, deepen integration and rapid socio-economic transformation so as to prepare for and ultimately sustain the Political Federation.
Ethuro, one of the six vice presidents of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said: “Violent acts are becoming instruments of insecurity and, therefore, we must confront the challenges being faced by the region.”
“There is need for the region to act as ‘brothers and sisters’ keepers and to help to find lasting solutions.”
Ethuro appealed to the Bureau of Speakers to urgently assist Burundi to return to peace and foster reconciliation.