The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is celebrating its decade of existence. Nicodemus Ikonko of the independent East African News Agency (EANA) based in Arusha, interviewed the EALA Speaker, Mr Abdirahim Abdi on the progress and challenges of EALA
Q. Would you say the august Assembly lived to expectations of East Africans for the last 10 years? If so can you elaborate?
Speaker: Indeed yes! Over the last decade, we have realized a number of successes. EALA has passed a significant number of laws that are aimed at facilitating regional integration. We as an Assembly have continued to spearhead the integration process with zeal and dedication.
EALA has marketed EAC to East Africans as evidenced by the various outreach programmes undertaken in the region and contacts made with the citizens of the region. These include public visits and networking opportunities that enable EALA to share experiences with civil society, the private sector and youth, among others. We have thus remained visible and continue to provide an opportunity for dialogue between EALA members and the various sections of the public.
In its representative role, EALA continues to be the voice of the people in the integration dispensation, informing them about the commitments and policies of their governments to the EAC. That said, we believe the ‘sky is the limit’ and EALA can take its role and association with citizens of the region to the next level.
Q. The first Assembly constituted three partner states, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but in July 2007, two other countries, Burundi and Rwanda joined the regional bloc. Would you say there are any noticeable differences in the conduct and operations of the House?
Speaker: The operations and mandate of the Assembly have been strengthened since May 2008 when the members from Burundi and Rwanda were sworn in as members of EALA. With the coming of the new members, the Assembly expanded two-fold from 27 to 52.
The new Members speedily familiarized themselves with the rules (and procedures) and operations of EALA whose modus operandi is largely based on a Westminster or Commonwealth Model. Generally, EALA is looking at putting in place systems that will ensure members are able to articulate issues and responses to parliamentary affairs effectively.
The envisaged formation of the East African Parliamentary Institute (EAPI) is one such initiative of EALA and the national assemblies of the partner states. It shall among other things improve functioning of parliamentary institutions and their roles in representation, legislation and oversight.
EALA has also stepped up its efforts in liaising closely with national sssemblies.
Q. Under the EAC Treaty, could you say you still have room for another state like South Sudan to join the EAC?
Speaker: The EAC Treaty succinctly allows for expansion of membership so long as the in-coming country adheres to the tenets and principles of the Community as laid out in Article 3. Such may include but are not limited to adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance and the rule of law, geographical proximity and the potential contribution to strengthening integration.
South Sudan is very much itching to join the Community. I recently met with the President Gen Salva Kiir Mayardit after the inauguration of South Sudan and he indicated in as much of his country’s interest and desire to join the Community. In hindsight, South Sudan offers an opportunity for the EAC to expand and increase investment opportunities and expand its reach geographically.
Q. I noticed that the current EALA has 45 elected members and seven ex-officio members, bringing the total to 52, out of whom 20 are women. Are there plans to increase the numbers of women in the House?
Speaker: EALA certainly recognizes that women make a significant contribution in the process of socio-economic transformation and sustainable growth.
The Treaty is concise about the matter of gender as stipulated in Article 5. We are committed to ensuring elimination of prejudices against women and promotion of gender equality. Having said that, I wish to reiterate that EALA’s members are elected from the national assemblies of partner states which as the Treaty stipulates should as much as possible take into consideration a number of aspects including gender.
Be that as it may, at 20 out of 52 members, we have basically met the globally accepted minimum one-third representation. Each EALA Chapter which consists of nine members also meets the fundamental requirement since a minimum of three members are women.
We however continue to implore partner states and national assemblies to adhere to the said principles of equity in representation when electing their members to EALA. We welcome initiatives taken to increase the number of women not only in this Assembly but in various levels and cadres of leadership in the region.
Q. You have almost a year to complete your term as the Speaker of the House. What can you say that you have managed to achieve?
Speaker: It has been four great years of service to the people of the region. Even as we begin to wind the clock of service and for me as the Speaker, there are a number of achievements. I wish to denote that we today have an efficient legislative assembly and one which has brought services closer to the people. The Assembly has also successfully created its space within the EAC as the legislative organ of the Community.
The second Assembly has shown high levels of vibrancy and enthusiasm as testified by the numbers of laws and other resolutions enacted/adopted respectively in record time.
We have likewise upheld the principle of separation of powers between the executive and the legislature on matters affecting East Africans. EALA has a niche within the regional and international parliamentary forums. Other than the European Union, we are the other regional Parliament that makes laws.
The SADC-PF, the ECOWAS Parliament and even the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) are indeed learning from and borrowing best practices from EALA. Let me state that a good number of the noteworthy achievements have taken place against an environment of minimal and sometimes sub-optimal resources.
There is still much more we can do with additional resources. We want an Assembly that resonates closely with the people of this great region and meets them at their points of need.
Q. Do you have any extraordinary events in the life of EALA you would like to share with the readers?
Speaker: As mentioned earlier, we are celebrating ten years of working closely with wananchi of the region. We are celebrating ten years of great success while using the observance as a period to reflect on our challenges as well. EALA is truly a “people’s Parliament”.
It exists in the day to day lives of ordinary citizens. We are proud that the civil society, private sector and the youth are reaching out to EALA for direction over time. This is a good pattern. We encourage citizens to freely contact us on matters of legislation and/or otherwise approach us with ideas of how to improve their lives.
Q. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve EALA operations?
Speaker: A prosperous and united region and one where citizens think of themselves as “one people with a common destiny” is our goal. I wish to leave an EALA that is both adaptive and constantly responsive to the needs of the people. To this effect, achievements registered by EALA in the various areas of integration should provide a learning experience in terms of best practices that can be used as impetus for the Assembly and be emulated beyond our region by other parliaments. It should be noted that if integration is to succeed, then parliaments as representative institutions need to play a more visible role in the process.
Q. What legacy do you think you wish to leave?
Speaker: The Assembly has always been concerned with the presentation, scope and content of budgets of EAC. Whilst generally noting the scarcity of resources, there is need to ensure the EAC budget is properly aligned to the strategic development plans of the Community. It is the considered view of the Assembly that the partner states should provide the resources and leave the matter of prioritizing to the Assembly with support from the Secretariat.
Secondly, legislation is our core business and a necessity to successful integration. EALA is of the view that protocols are instruments of co-operation and not integration because they are not enforceable. Thus to improve our operations, it is vital for the EAC to amend section 59 of the Treaty removing the limitations of the subsequent provisions in order to enable the Assembly to initiate all Bills deemed relevant to strengthening the integration process. Ideally, the EAC has decided that it needs to integrate up to the level of a Political Federation, a move we fully support.
Why China has succeeded where Tanzania has faltered
By Correspondent Attilio Tagalile recently in China
The Communist Party of China, CPC, has remained at the helm and firm control of the political and socio-economic development of the 1.4 billion people since it was founded in 1949.
After leading the Chinese people to freedom following a protracted armed struggle led by Chairman Mao Tse Tung against its occupier, Japan, it took the CPC barely 60 years to replace its former occupier as the second leading economy in the world!
China’s life span as an independent nation is older by ten year to that of Tanzania (which marked its 50th independence anniversary on Friday, December 9th, 2011).
Yet in almost the same life span clocked by Tanzania, China’s socio-economic development has not only surpassed by over 100 times that of the former, but is now threatening to overtake United States as the number one economy in the world!
The question is why has China succeeded where developing countries like Tanzania have failed?
The secret lies in the nature and modus operandi of their ruling parties whose visions and missions are implemented by their respective governments.
For instance, in the case of China, the CPC supervised the country’s socio-economic development plans from their inception (from the grass root level to the top) to their implementation.
Such plans are worked on by best experts the nation can lay its hands on. Nothing is taken for granted!
With nine million square kilometers, China has 32 regions, and for its socio-economic plans to be approved and finally given a nod by the Central Committee of the CPC, the (plans) must have had the approval of the entire population through their representatives.
This is extremely important because apart from final approval by the Central Committee of the CPC, the validity of the country’s socio-economic plans is heavily dependent on its (plans) ownership by the people.
One of the last stages of such plans are discussed thoroughly, by members of every region in their respective assemblies located in Beijing before the plans are finally presented to the Central Committee of the CPC for further discussions and final approval.
And once the Central Committee of the CPC has approved the socio-economic plans, implementation work starts.
But in order to ensure that nothing goes wrong, as far as implementation of socio-economic plans are concerned, the CPC has machinery in place that reviews implementation work after every given period.
The objective is to manage the development process for socio-economic wellbeing of their people and the nation at large.
In short, no CPC or Chinese government leader can promise people about construction or provision of anything outside what has been approved by the CPC.
Therefore as a ruling party, the CPC through the peoples’ representatives work on the country’s socio-economic development plans after which the government is finally directed to implement what has been decided by the party.
What this means is that there is no room for populism! No leader, no matter what position he or she holds in the country or the party will promise the people the setting up of something that is not contained in the CPC’s development manifesto!
Therefore when it comes to issues contained in the CPC Manifesto no leader is above the party!
Dissent of opinion during discussions on the country’s socio-economic development plans, at any level of the ruling party’s sitting, is tolerated. This is what the Chinese refer to as implementation of their democracy, but with Chinese perspective (in accordance with prevailing China’s conditions).
The aim for espousing such democratic practices is very simple, people must be given opportunity to discuss, thoroughly, whatever doubts they have on the proposed socio-economic plans before decisions are made.
Therefore claims usually made by some people that there is no democracy in China’s ruling CPC is not true because people are given every opportunity to air their opinion on important their country’s economic plans. But once whatever plans that the Central Committee of the CPC has approved, then they have to be implanted to the letter, there are no two ways about it.
As already noted, nothing is approved by the Central Committee of the CPC that is not reviewed after a given period of time in order to find out whether or not it is still valid.
What has been approved by the Central Committee of the CPC cannot be altered by any leader without its approval!
Changes in implementation of any socio-economic plans are made by the Chinese people through their CPC and not through change of leadership.
One pertinent question that Tanzanians ought to ask themselves today is having decided to implement the policy of Socialism and Self-Reliance (after the promulgation of the Arusha Declaration in 1967) was there any attempt by the then ruling party, the Tanganyika African National Union, TANU, to review the implementation of Ujamaa Programme after every given period of time?
When the second phase government finally decided (through its ruling party, CCM) on the implementation of the free market economic policies did it have any explanation as to why it had decided to dump Ujamaa in 1990s?
Did they have any explanation for dumping (again under CCM) in 1992 the leadership code under what would later come to be known as the Zanzibar Declaration?
Has the party responsible for the re-introduction of market economic policies reviewed implementation of its new policies with the express purpose of finding out whether or not Tanzania was on track?
When was the last time NEC or CC of the ruling party gathered just to discuss the economic policies during the past two decades?
Honest response by Tanzanians to the foregoing questions is critical in understanding why Tanzania has not succeeded as much as their Chinese counterpart after clocking almost the same number of years since independence.
Personally, I witnessed the implementation of Ujamaa village programme in my area when people were moved from their old village to a new one close to the Iringa-Mbeya highway which was devoid of water!
As far as my area is concerned, there was no serious planning by the powers that be before the implementation of the policy which required massive expertise!
In china, a lot of work and heads (experts) went into planning the country’s socio-economic development, transforming it from centralized to socialist market economy. Addressing Tanzanian leaders a few years after stepping down both as Union President and party chairman, the Founding Father, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere said only a mad man would continue to cling to Ujamaa when the latest leadership had decided they would have nothing to do with it!
He said: “When leaders went to Zanzibar and dumped the policy along with the leadership code, some of us who thought otherwise were quick to understand what their move implied (Ujamaa) had finally been laid to rest.”
Mwalimu said it was fine with him if Tanzanians were no longer interested in Ujamaa. “But what about self-reliance?” he asked?
He asked whether Tanzanians were also not interested in self-reliance as a policy. Therefore Tanzania’s present economic problems are, to a large extent, due to the clumsy manner with which successive governments have been handling its economic policies.
And this includes the way it implemented the villagisation programme and its decision to dump the leadership code.
This is indeed a very sad affair especially if one takes into account the fact that Tanzania’s latter governments, unlike the first phase government which was short of educated people is highly endowed in experts some of whom are back home after working wonders abroad!
A Chinese professor from Beijing Normal University echoed what Mwalimu had once said when he told the visiting group of African scholars, former diplomats and senior journalists at the Zhejiang Normal University in Anzhu that he had read Mwalimu’s books on Ujamaa and Self-Reliance and found nothing wrong with them.
Although the professor did not take his argument further, but judging what the CPC has done for China in the last 60 years, it is not difficult to appreciate the Chinese professor’s argument.
That had Tanzanians reviewed, from time to time, implementation of their ujamaa policy with the objective of improving it, they would not have given Kenya’s Professor, Ali Mazrui the luxury of describing their founding father as an heroic failure.
In a nutshell, that is where the main difference (call it problem if you like) in my opinion lies between China’s success and Tanzania’s failure.
In fact, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Ujamaa.
However, what went wrong was the ruling party’s failure to review, every stage of the policy’s implementation.
Had the ruling party, in this particular case, Tanu, reviewed ujamaa now and then, it would not have reached where it reached.
The same thing could be said about the dumping of the leadership code.
We have all borne witness to the destruction the exercise has led Tanzanians to, after jettisoning the code in Zanzibar!
All of a sudden, a section of members of the ruling party have discovered the folly of mixing politics with business!
But for most of them who had literally grown up as cadres in ruling parties in Tanu, Afro-Shirazi and CCM for over 30 years as party cadres, surely their discovery is not news!
The point is they should have known a long time ago that the end result of dumping the leadership code would have eventually led them to the present volatile political climate!
That once one mixes politics with business, it goes without saying that politicians would use their political position to enrich themselves and usually, through corruption.
The increased number of public institutions that politicians have lately attempted to own, illegally, with varied success through various tricks is just a tip of the iceberg of the political the political tsunami that await to engulf Tanzania sooner than later if efforts are not urgently made to avert it!
The main problem with such wayward politicians is that they know that once they own such public institutions no one would question them, least of all the government of the day since there is no divide, legally, between politics and business.
The fact that the Chinese have succeeded in turning around their country’s economy does not mean that they were free from problems, far from it!
They faced numerous implementation problems which forced them to review each and every stage of implementation of their socio-economic plans.
For instance, after the founding of the Chinese nation in 1949, the country was awash with feudalism with the poor tilling the land they did not own!
This situation was changed, making a peasant owner not only of the land he/she tilled on, but also what he/she produced on it.
Later the CPC led government introduced collectivization programme with the objective of improving production.
However, this did not last long, hence its replacement with personal ownership of land on which one tilled on.
The latest move was introduced by the CPC after discovering the disincentive nature of the collectivisation programme.
The CPC was going back and forth, between 1949 and 1986 in its land reforms, until it reached a more acceptable agricultural development model with Chinese characteristics.
China would therefore not have succeeded in feeding all its 1.4 billion people had it allowed problems to rear their ugly heads in its agricultural sector.
It was due to the soundness of China’s agricultural sector coupled with implementation of its tailored education system that would by 2006 transform the country into one of up and coming industrial nations.