PARLIAMENT - Thirty four legislators from the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) presently in the country for the second meeting of the second session of the EALA are set to observe the Parliamentary elections that kicked off early this morning.
This was revealed yesterday by Dr. Amani Kabourou, the Chairperson of the EAC Election Observer Mission to Rwanda in a press briefing at Parliament buildings in Kimihurura.
“Following the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Rwanda, the East African Community has sent an election observer mission to witness the general election process,” Dr. Kabourou told journalists, underlining that the undertaking is in line with the 1999 pact for the EAC’s establishment, “as amended on 14th December 2006 and 20th august 2007.” Accordingly, the bloc’s partner states undertake to co-operate on a broad range of areas, including political ones.
Dr. Kabourou, however, explained that no Rwandan was included in his team, drawing attention to his mission’s effort in eliminating what they saw as a likelihood of “conflict of interest.”
“It is an agreed principle that nationals don’t be involved because they might have personal interests,” he said.
In his initial statement, Dr. Kabourou also pointed out the three key objectives for which his team was deployed.
First, he said, was to ascertain whether the elections are free, fair and they conform to the principles of good governance and democracy in the region.
Secondly, they will look out for best practices that could be emulated in the region and thirdly, they will seek to widen and deepen cooperation between partner states in socio-economic and political affairs.
“All partner states must conform to these principles as a requirement for membership in the community as set by the treaty,” he said.
Among others, he underscored Article Three of the treaty which stresses adherence to universally accepted principles of good governance, democracy and rule of law, human rights and social justice.
Prior to their current task, the EAC has observed elections in Kenya [as well as the referendum on the new constitution November 2005], Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Members of Dr. Kabourou’s team also acknowledged that their various regional experiences would be helpful as they follow several issues around the current Rwandan elections.
“It has to be a level playing field for all the contestants,” he underscored.
Uganda’s Nusura Tiperu pointed out that they would carefully watch out for the conduct of electoral officials at polling stations, among others.
“Do all candidates have polling station agents, are they not being intimidated?” she posed, adding that distance of polling stations, voters’ privacy and security arrangements would also be considered.
Dora Kanabahita stressed the importance she attached to the tallying and announcing of votes, apart from underscoring the importance of “equal opportunities” in as far as the youth, the elderly and especially, women, among others, were concerned.
The EAC Election Observer Mission to Rwanda said that it will compile a report including its findings and recommendations that will be published and submitted to the Rwanda Electoral Commission.