The new Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Martin Ngoga, has urged regional lawmakers to rise above partisan interests to push forward the region’s integration agenda.
EALA lawmakers on Tuesday elected the Rwandan as the fifth Speaker of EALA, during a second round of voting.
The entire Assembly comprises 54 lawmakers – with nine from each of the six partner states.
The winner must obtain two thirds of votes from all members.
But Ngoga initially garnered 35 votes – falling short of the threshold after lawmakers from Burundi and Tanzania boycotted the voting.
A second round of voting was called by the EALA clerk, Kenneth Mandete, and this time, Ngoga collected 33 votes from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan MPs to be declared winner.
In the second round of voting, a simple majority is enough to win, according to House rules.
In the second round, Burundi’s candidate MP Leontine Nzeyimana got three votes and Tanzania’s MP Adam Kimbisa none.
Tuesday’s poll followed hours of back-and-forth debate in the House.
Addressing lawmakers, thereafter, Ngoga said he accepted the responsibility with humility and promised to uphold the dignity of the House at all times.
Ngoga, who replaces Uganda’s Daniel Fred Kidega, said: “In performing my duties, I will give the majority their way but respect and protect the rights of minorities at all times. “
The inauguration of the fourth Assembly was delayed for six months to allow Kenya to elect its representatives.
Ngoga said the delay had considerable repercussions to the members, both individually and collectively.
He pledged to provide the necessary leadership needed to perform statutory functions to take the six-member regional economic bloc’s integration process to another level.
“I will spare no effort to provide the leadership you need to maintain high moral standing for us to confidently exercise oversight to other institutions for the Community.”
The new Speaker said their responsibility comes with a challenge to “demonstrate abilities, willingness and readiness to rise above our partisan interests and to promote a regional agenda.”
But he said this should not be a difficult task, because the bloc’s agenda is not in conflict with sovereign policies and priorities.
“In this, we shall be guided by the [EAC] Treaty and other legal instruments in place but remain focused on what is in the best interest of all east Africans.”
On Monday, proceedings for the inauguration of the fourth EALA begun properly with lawmakers swearing in as expected in Arusha, Tanzania but the second and most important item which was electing the Speaker, hit a snag when lawmakers from Burundi and Tanzania boycotted the session.
Tanzania and Burundi unexpectedly joined Rwanda in fronting candidates for the Speakership, which other lawmakers said was inconsistent with the rotational principal.
Lawmakers refuse Summit intervention
Before the Tuesday’s vote, lawmakers rejected a proposal from the Chair of the Council of Ministers, Uganda’s minister of state for EAC Affairs, Julius Wandera Maganda, to adjourn and hand the matter over to the Summit if they failed to reach consensus as reportedly advised by President Yoweri Museveni, the Chair of the Summit.
The boycotting countries have threatened to take the matter to the East African Court of Jusitce (EACJ).
The first Assembly, from 2001 to 2006, had Tanzania’s Abdulrahman Kinana, as Speaker, while the second Assembly, from 2007 to 2012, had Kenyan Abdi rahim Abdi as speaker.
The third and most recent Assembly, from 2012 to 2017, had Uganda’s Daniel Fred Kidega at the helm, who took over from compatriot Margaret Zziwa, who was impeached before her five-year term ended.
Who is Martin Ngoga
Former Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Ngoga was first elected to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in March 2015.
He went to the regional assembly on the governing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) ticket, replacing MP Abdul Karim Harelimana, who had resigned from the regional House.
He was re-elected in May this year.
The fourth Assembly, and Ngoga’s tenure as Speaker, will run from 2017 to 2022.
He also serves as deputy chairperson of the FIFA Ethics Committee in charge of investigatory chamber.
The independent Ethics Committee is one of FIFA’s judicial bodies primarily responsible for investigating possible infringements of the FIFA Code of Ethics.