Tempers flared up yesterday in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) as regional lawmakers demanded an explanation over the suspension of their session.
The heated debate saw East African Community (EAC) Secretary General Juma Mwapachu grilled over the decision to suspend the fourth EALA session by the regional bloc’s secretariat.
It all began when MP Clarkson Karan Othieno (Kenya) moved a motion that the house appoints a select committee to investigate the circumstances under which the fourth meeting of the second session of EALA was suspended.
The MP also demanded to know the trend and prioritization of the financial remittances from partner states for financial years 2008/2009.
“The secretariat has no authority over the assembly. We demand to know reasons why the secretariat went ahead to write a letter to EALA asking it to re-schedule its programmes,” Othieno said, underscoring that there has always been intrigue in different EAC organs.
Early this month, the Deputy Secretary General (Finance and Administration) Julius Tangus Rotich wrote to EALA informing the MPs that the session had been suspended, on grounds that there was no facilitation money.
The legislators, who said the postponement had caused them psychological torture and mental anguish, said that there can’t be a strong legislative assembly without autonomy.
The MPs wondered why they had to receive the letter on short notice, when some of them had already arrived in Arusha, while others had forgone many other programmes for the session.
The MPs also demanded to know why nobody from the secretariat owned the letter Rotich.
“The Deputy Secretary General said the letter was written on the instructions of the Secretary General, while the Secretary General said he didn’t give those instructions and we as an assembly couldn’t sit and see something going wrong somewhere,” Othieno added.
Abdukarim Harerimana (Rwanda) described the postponement of the session as insubordination, undemocratic and indiscipline of the highest level, saying that by appointing a select committee to investigate such circumstances, it was to protect the dignity of the House.
MP Chris Nakuleu (Kenya) said challenged Mwapachu to take his work seriously.
Another MP Dan Kidega (Uganda) reiterated the need to change the management style at the secretariat and added that the MPs had no ill motive in calling for establishment of a select committee to investigate the circumstances under which the session was suspended.
Mwapachu, who was seated in the midst of the MPs, was relieved when Uganda’s Minister for EAC Affairs, Eriya Kategaya chipped in and discouraged the appointment of a committee, saying that it was not the solution to the whole financial crisis.
“Hon Speaker, I beg to be protected and not to be intimidated because nobody will succeed in intimidating me. Your anger should be directed to the Council of Ministers and not the Secretary General,” Kategaya said, after the MPs had attempted to interrupt his submissions.
Kategaya is a member of the Council of Ministers, which is made up of ministers in the five EAC Partner States in charge of East African Affairs.
During the session, Mwapachu apologized for the letter his Deputy wrote and told the MPs that the essence of suspending the session was because some partner states had not yet remitted their contributions.
He explained that, because of the untimely payments, the secretariat was running on borrowed funds from the Gratuity Fund but assured that the money would soon be paid back after the remittances are paid.
The five partner states are required to make annual contributions of US$ 4 million to the EAC secretariat for its efficient running.