The turn for Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) was this time around a Ugandan affair and a thriller of sorts in Arusha.
The National Resistance Movement (NRM), it turned out, had an “official” candidate in the person of Hon Dora Byamukama but there was also a “rogue ranger,” Hon Margaret Nnantongo Zziwa, both Ugandans and NRM members. And, the winner was – the rogue ranger!
I was not surprised that Hon Byamukama lost. It is always almost a sure march to the exit in popular politics when a candidate approaches elections with the given lock of a crown prince.
I think that was Dora’s and the NRM’s biggest mistake. That Dora was literally pulverised by Margaret, getting 12 votes only against the winner’s 33, speaks volumes about the two women’s political dexterity.
Dora could be a combative politician back home but in Arusha, it was Margaret who was the more adroit hawk and, by extension, the better regional civil servant.
The East African Community (EAC) is certainly not an extension of the NRM or worse, an arm of the Ugandan ruling party’s women caucus. According to the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Hon Rebecca Kadaga, Dora was “their” choice but it is quite clear, there was no consensus.
And, instead of class, Dora demonstrated crass behaviour when she refused to shake the hand of her fellow regional legislator or take the bouquet of flowers Margaret offered her as a gesture of friendship and harmonious relations to serve the people of East Africa. Granted, she was still too frustrated and even angered by the defeat. She may have even felt a sense of betrayal. But maturity demands very fast composure, since in life, disappointments are never the end of opportunity.
If East Africa is to move toward deeper integration, then nothing will guarantee the region stronger pillars of unity than a mature, democratic and very transparent EALA. If the EALA turns into a mediocre institution, then the region can perhaps forget for a while, loftier aspirations for stronger union.
And there are very serious concerns about mediocrity in EALA. There is the perception that many member states use the key organ for regional integration as a political dumping site for persons not expected to move serious agenda. Therefore, anyone can technically become EALA member as long as he or she is a good stooge of the powers that be in the member states.
I think time has come for setting minimum academic qualifications for EALA membership. Secondly, EALA members should be directly elected, just like the other MPs for the various legislatures of the member states. That would give the region people with the right standing to serve the people of East Africa and eliminate the corruption that has started to seep into the organ.