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Opinion & Analysis

Eala nominations row hurt our image

The East African Legislative Assembly on March 18, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The East African Legislative Assembly on March 18, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The curtain on the Eleventh Parliament came down last Thursday. This was the first Parliament after the adoption of the 2010 Constitution.

It also had both the National Assembly and the Senate, a first since the abolition of the first Senate in 1966. The jury is still out on the performance of the 11th Parliament. It will form the subject of discussions in various spaces in the days and weeks to come.

There is one area though, that judgement has to be passed harshly on the 11th Parliament. This relates to the country’s regional integration commitments.

Kenya is a founding member of the East African Community. One of the commitments under the EAC Treaty is to elect representatives to the regional assembly, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

The term of the previous representatives to EALA ended and new members were supposed to be chosen by each of the Partner States.

All countries submitted the names of their nine nominees except Kenya. As a consequence, Kenya has no members in the Fourth Assembly. This position will continue for some time following the end of the sittings of both the Third Assembly and the 11th Parliament.

With the latter, no core business can be transacted until the elections are held on 8th August, 2017.

While it is arguable that Parliament can be reconvened at any time, the decision by Parliament to transfer the responsibility of electing new EALA members to the 12th Parliament is unfortunate.

The delay is indicative of the performance of the 11th Parliament on EAC issues. That performance has been disappointing. I have followed discussions of the East African Assembly since the inaugural Assembly in 2001.

The poor show of the current Parliament is evidenced by several issues. First, in the third Assembly we had nine members.

It is difficult for ordinary Kenyans to remember the name of even one. I know some but I cannot remember all the members of the outgoing regional assembly.

While part of the methods of operations of the Assembly since its establishment in 2001, has involved sittings in the Partners States, the levels of engagement by the Kenyan members with the public so as to popularize regional issues has been below par.

Secondly, in the second Assembly the linkages between the Kenyan Members and the National Assembly was strong and their engagements robust.

The last four years have flown by for the outgoing members. It would be interesting to hear about their assessment of the engagement with their constituency, being the National Parliament and through them the people of Kenya.

One of my most memorable engagements with the East African Regional Assembly were contributions to the formation of the East African Parliamentary Liaison Committee, initially as a framework for discussions on matters trade.

Through this, intense and regular discussions took place on World Trade Agreement negotiations and ACP-EU Trade negotiations between East Africa and the European Union. During the last session of EALA, the levels of information on this initiative was limited.

However, there were engagements on East African sports. Sports is a powerful tool for integration. We need to ensure that in addition to sports we are also prioritising other areas of integration in the engagements between the Kenyan Parliament and regional parliament.

Lastly, the delay in electing members to EALA is a huge indictment on Kenya. We have allowed our partisan politics to derail our regional agenda.

Kenya is a founding member of EAC. I was in Arusha last Monday during which I witnessed the inability to choose our representatives being discussed in hushed tones. The obtaining view was that this action was going to derail EALA business.

Within the wider context, a key factor for the progress in regional integration is trust. We have to accept that Parliament, through its actions, did not demonstrate full trust and interest in the regional integration agenda, specifically the legislative process.

The EALA nomination fiasco was the culmination of this process.

The silence of Kenyan citizens and citizens groups is also an indictment on our enthusiasm and engagement on regional integration matters.

We must take this a wake-up call. Those seeking election to the National Assembly and the Senate on 8th August must have much more enthusiasm on regional integration than the Eleventh Parliament.

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