KIGALI - The EAC legislative organ which is sitting in Kigali, Wednesday adjourned debate on the Trans-boundary Ecosystems Bill 2010 until the next plenary session in Bujumbura, Burundi, in November.
The Bill aims to, among others, provide a legal framework to effectively streamline the management of transboundary ecosystems with a view to enhancing the quality of the environment and also ensure sustainable utilisation of shared natural resources.
The adjournment was requested by the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Hafsa Mossi, who said that they needed at least a month to review the Bill.
Mossi, who is also the Burundian Minister for EAC affairs, noted that the Council needed more time to analyse critical issues arising from the Bill in its current form.
Among the areas of concern, she highlighted, included the need to define a clear mandate between the existing institutions notably the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation and the new commission (East African Trans-boundary Ecosystems Commission) envisaged in the Bill.
Another matter of contention is the imminent conflict of the Bill with provisions of the EAC Protocol of the Common Market dealing with land as areas that need more consultation.
“As the Council of Ministers, while affirming our total and unequivocal support for the Bill, we feel the concerns should be addressed,” Mossi said.
Previously, the mover of the Bill, MP Dr. George Nangale, said that if passed, the Bill would become a landmark law, to address and provide for the management and regulation of the bloc’s transboundary ecosystems.
Fortunatus Masha, an EALA lawmaker, also supported the adjournment, saying that if passed in its current state, it would be bad for the bloc as it leaves too many gaps.
However, during debate, many MPs supported the passing of the Bill noting that it had taken several years. They said there were avenues for amendment that could be used to improve it once passed.
Legislators including Safina Kwekwe, the Chairperson of EALA’s Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, opposed the adjournment saying the issues over the “long overdue bill” had been raised before and that amendments can always be made.
Uganda’s Lydia Wanyoto, who hails from the Mt. Elgon area in Uganda, which was recently devastated by mudslides, was similarly against the adjournment.
Wanyoto came to the Assembly after attending the burial ceremony of over 50 families killed by mudslides, about two weeks ago, in her home area.
“I stand here to plead with you. For us to delay this work, when hardly two weeks ago, part of this community buried their own; over 50 families,” she said, adding that any delay in passing the bill was a demonstration of insensitivity.