EALA seeks amendment of EAC treaty to enable universal suffrage

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has proposed the amendment of article 50 of the EAC Treaty to allow members of the regional assembly to be elected by the electorates instead of national parliaments.
The five East African countries will start applying uniform rules and procedures for electing members to the regional House from next year if the heads of states approve the proposal. The proponents of the amendment say it avoids recent expensive legal suits. EALA members said the move was aimed at increasing people’s participation in the regional law making body. The Assembly has since last week been meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Currently, nine members of the EALA are selected from each national parliament of the five EAC member states. The proposed law, which aimed at reducing the influence of the national parliaments in the affairs of the regional assembly, has also fixed the EALA term at five years and introduced the 30 per cent gender rule for its membership.

The regional MPs currently enjoy a five year term but EALA itself has had no definite life span or guideline on replacement of old members, a lapse that has often led to longer recess periods. The bill proposes 90 days as the maximum period within which the national parliaments must replace EALA’s retiring or outgoing members.

EALA Speaker, Mr Abdirahin Abdi, said in the House on Friday last week that already the Assembly had submitted its proposals to the EAC Council of Ministers for a decision. “The Assembly is of opinion that members of EALA should be elected by the people in their respective countries.

But the decision to amend the treaty is in the hands of the Council of Ministers,” he said. The proposals were submitted last year.
Meanwhile, the Assembly has been informed that plans are underway to upgrade the troubled EAC passports from regional to international status.
Starting 2012, the passports will be printed on a wider scale and will operate within the whole region, alongside the national passports but the internationalisation of the same could be before the end of next year, the EAC Parliament heard last week.

Addressing the EA Legislative Assembly plenary session, the chairman of the EA Council of Ministers, who doubles as the Burundian EA Affairs Minister, Ms Hasfa Mosi, did not offer a definitive month when the passports would start operating beyond the region. “The task force made the case studies from Belgium and Italy and found no legal requirements to internationalise the EA passports,” she said.

The process started in 2005 with the council of ministers directing the secretariat to work out a way of internationalising it, and a task force of immigration experts was also put in place to design it with security features but later stalled as they waited for Rwanda and Burundi to include their security features. Also known as the new-generation passport, it will appear in Diplomatic, Service and Ordinary categories.

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