EDITORIAL: Democratic principles in the EAC need to be respected

As Rwanda was holding its national dialogue (Umushyikirano) bringing together all its children on one table to chart a new course and address shortcomings, a thousand kilometres away, drama was unfolding that left a major blot on the region’s future.

As Rwanda was holding its national dialogue (Umushyikirano) bringing together all its children on one table to chart a new course and address shortcomings, a thousand kilometres away, drama was unfolding that left a major blot on the region’s future.

While Umushyikirano was all about consolidating Rwanda’s hard earned unity and strengthening the country’s economic and social gains, in the Tanzanian northern town of Arusha, cracks were again beginning to appear in the unifying bond of the East African Community (EAC).

Well, consolidating the East African unity, be it political or economic, has always had its ups and downs, but what happened at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) this week left a sour taste in the mouth; EAC members are not reading from the same text.

The bone of contention was the election of the Speaker of the EALA fourth Assembly, a post that is usually occupied on a rotational basis but through the ballot. Since Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda had occupied the previous three slots, the post was open to the other three members.

Theoretically, South Sudan was out of the contest as it was the first time it was participating, so the floor was left between Burundi and Rwanda, to be decided democratically. It is still a mystery why Tanzania decided to join the fray yet it had already exhausted its slot, but that was not the issue; the ultimate decision lay with the Assembly through the ballot.

Attempts to scuttle the elections by walking out failed, but it was an indication that not all is well at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Council of Heads of State really needs to clean up the house in Arusha for the sake of the community.