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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

EA ecosystems law hits snag

25th May 2012
East African Cooperation minister Samuel Sitta displays books prepared by his ministry at an East African legislatorsí meeting in Dar es Salaam yesterday. (Photo: Correspondent Owen Mwandumbya)

Tanzania is opposed to the enforcement of a regional law on Trans-boundary Ecosystems, whose Bill was recently endorsed by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) meeting in Kampala, Uganda.

The regional assembly passed the Bill on January 12, this year, and it is now awaiting final approval of Heads of State in order to become law enforceable in the EAC member states.

However, its’ enforcement is now being challenged by Tanzania, which has rejected the law on the grounds that it would interfere with land issues which are not part of the broader EAC Treaty.

“I requested President Jakaya Kikwete not to sign the Bill. It’s against the EAC Treaty,” said Samuel Sitta, Minister for East African Cooperation at the orientation seminar for newly-elected members of EALA.

He explained that the Bill, which originated from a private motion tabled by a Tanzanian EALA member, touches on matters related to land, “an issue which is not included in the EAC Treaty.”

EAC partner states left out land in the regional Treaty and agreed that the issue would be dealt with under the national laws and frameworks of the respective countries.

“But EALA MPs from partner states are very clever…they may use some tricks to get your (Tanzania’s EALA MPs) support in endorsing certain Bills, which may not directly touch on land, but indirectly they will have direct implications on our land,” said the minister.

He pointed out that EAC Transboundary Ecosystems Bill stands as a good example: “Influenced by other MPs from partner states, one Tanzanian EALA MP moved a private motion which was endorsed by the legislative body, but indirectly that Bill will touch our land.”

According to Sitta, on the face of it the Bill seeks to streamline regional environmental affairs, which “at the end of the day would have implication on land issues, which is not part of the EAC Treaty.” He said EAC partners use direct approaches to push for enforcement of regional land-related laws, asking newly-elected Tanzania’s EALA MPs to be careful with the “techniques used by regional colleagues.”

Before the Bill becomes a regional law, it must be approved by Heads of State from EAC partner states, observed the minister, noting: “I have already requested President Jakaya Kikwete not to accept this Bill (Transboundary Ecosystem) because of the reasons I stated above.” Sitting in Kampla, on January 12, this year, the East African Legislative Assembly, debated and passed the EAC Transboundary Ecosystems Bill 2010.

According to national and regional media reports, the Bill whose debate was suspended last year received overwhelming support when it came up for debate on the floor of the House.

The object of the Bill originally moved by Dr George Francis Nangale is to provide for a legal framework to effectively streamline the management of trans-boundary eco-systems with a view to enhancing the quality of the environment and also ensure sustainable utilisation of shared natural resources in the EAC.

It seeks to provide for the management and regulation of transboundary ecosystems to establish a Commission managing ecosystems in the region and other related matters.

Suspension of the Bill followed concerns raised by EAC Council of Ministers, who requested for more time to consult. The adjournment was further stayed in November 2011 during the subsequent 2nd Meeting of the 5th Session held in Bujumbura, Burundi.

The Council of Ministers sought to clarify the mandate of the envisaged Commission for the management of transboundary ecosystems vis a vis existing institutions. At the same time, Council felt there was an imminent conflict on matters of land given the fact that such matters remain a preserve of the partner states as stated in the Common Market Protocol.

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