Spotlight on Eala after Jaguar’s jibe

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 00:00 | By
East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Member Simon Mbugua in a past function in Nairobi. Photo/PD/FILE

An outburst by Starehe MP Charles Kanyi about nomination to East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), has triggered debate that the institution is used to reward political allies.  

Kanyi, popularly known as “Jaguar”, reportedly said that Deputy President William Ruto promised him nomination to Eala if he quit the MP race. 

Ruto, a key presidential candidate, dangled nomination to the Arusha-based assembly for candidates who agreed to step down for their rivals in the party primaries, as well as losers, in a bid to prevent costly fall out. 

Jaguar has returned to the race as an independent. He was reacting after he lost the just-concluded United Democratic Alliance (UDA) nominations to Simon Mbugua, who was deployed to Arusha in 2017 after he was prevailed upon by Jubilee Party leadership to step down for Yusuf Hassan in Kamukunji primaries.

“You (referring to the DP) cannot remove me from here (Starehe) where I have been elected and take me to Arusha (Eala),” the MP said.

Eala, whose membership currently stands at 62, with nine elected members from each of the six East Africa Community (EAC) partners states — Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi — and eight ex-officio members. It is a independent arm of the Community that advances the interest of the bloc as well as provides oversight.

But political parties have been blamed for picking disgruntled politicians who lose in nominations, or their relatives, to the regional assembly.  

Cut-throat competition

This is unlike Uganda where the competition for the positions is cut-throat and requires nominees to appear before Parliament to campaign for their bids. They are put to task to explain what it is they can offer  if nominated to Eala. 

Currently, those representing Nairobi in the term that ends in December include Mbugua and Azimio  leader Raila Odinga’s elder brother Oburu Oginga (who lost the Bondo parliamentary nominations). Others are Kennedy Musyoka, who is Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s son, and ex-Nyandarua Woman Rep Wanjiku Muhia, who was picked after losing her seat. 

Yet others are former Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi, who was also defeated in 2017,  ex-Wajir Woman Rep Fatuma Ali, as well as Jematiah Florence.

 Others recommended but not approved included former Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC) chair Charles Nyachae, who unsuccessfully contested the Kisii Senatorial race in the August 8 elections, and former MPs Abdulaziz Ali Farah (Mandera East), Adan Mohamed Nooru (Mandera North),  Abdikadir Aden (Balambala) and former Eala MP Abubakar Zain. In the list also was former Nyeri nominated MCA Elizabeth Wangui.

Dr Samuel Nyandemo, a senior lecturer at the School of Economics at the University of Nairobi,  said that given the choices that Nairobi has been sending to represent it in Arusha, it appears to have lost the meaning and purpose of the regional body. He added that political parties have been allowed to recommend political rejects and sycophants.

“Looking at the members representing Nairobi, they are political rejects — men and women who do not understand what the EAC needs in terms of its economy and growth. They are people with no bearing on the region’s needs, they have no idea what to bring to the table, and the country seems to have lost bearing on what qualities are needed for one to be in that House which plays a critical role,” said Nyandemo. 

 “We have turned it to a platform for rewarding political rejects and sycophants. There is a need to come up with a better mechanism for selecting nominees and vetting them so that we get people of good quality to represent us,” Nyandemo told People Daily.

But former Eala MP Joseph Kiangoi defended the nomination process  saying it was rigorous and difficult to abuse.

“ First of all, you must be qualified to be a MP in your home county.  The positions are advertised and the positions are subjected to interviews and voting by Parliament. In the interviews, you must demonstrate that you understand the EAC treaty and its obligations,” said Kiangoi.

“Parties have a mechanism of ensuring that only the qualified candidates go the Assembly and the process is highly shielded from abuse,” said Kiangoi, who is battling for the Nyamira governorship. 

The House has a critical mandate of, among other things, liaising with the National Assemblies of member countries on matters relating to  the region, debate and approve the Budget of the EAC, consider annual audit reports of the Audit Commission and any other reports referred to it by the Council, discuss all matters pertaining to the Community and make recommendations to the Council as it may deem necessary for the implementation of the Treaty.

Though their term ends in December, already, Oburu has won the ODM ticket to run for the Siaya Senate seat in the August election, Mbugua won the  UDA ticket for Starehe, Jematiah (Women Rep Baringo) while Mpuru is seeking to recapture his seat in Meru, an indication that Kenya will be underrepresented in the remaining months should they win the seats.

Shortly after being sworn in the Arusha House, Mbugua found himself battling accusations of neglecting his duties  by spending too much time in Nairobi.  

County Assembly Majority Leaders Abdi Guyo and a section of Ward Reps accused him of  meddling in affairs of City Hall, saying he had been behaving as the de-facto deputy to Sonko, and that he was insulting, intimidating and threatening county employees and leaders.

Former Eala MP Mumbi Ngaru, who represented Nairobi in Eala  2012 and 2017, without appearing to discuss the merits and demerits of their  successors, faulted the turning of the positions into rewards for people who failed in their local election bids,  saying the country’s performance in the regional assembly was no longer impressive, adding that  previously, picking of the representatives was based on merit.  

“During our time, we never had that kind of arrangement (where political losers would get the positions). People can check  and compare what we as a country achieved during the first, second and third Eala assemblies, and what has been achieved by the current assembly. I am sad to say that we set high standards as a country which they were unable to match,” Mumbi said.

Uganda has also been accused of rewarding rejects and, in  2017, according to “The Observer”, a media outlet in the country, most of the candidates vying for the posts were in the running for National Resistance Movement  (NRM) seats,  and were losers in national parliamentary elections. This made President Yoweri Museveni declare that Eala was not an “employment bureau” for political job seekers.

“This election is just an election; elections are not employment bureaus that are here to give jobs to jobless people but people who will support the integration process,” he was quoted as having said.

Those who represented Nairobi between 2012 and 2017 were nominated Senator  Judith Pareno, Mumbi Ng’aru, former assistant Minister for Local Government and MP for North Mugirango Ombasa Kiangoi, Saoli ole Nkanae, Peter Mutuku, Nancy Abisai,  Bonaya Sarah, Abubakar Abubakarm, and Abubakar Abdi

In 2007-2012, Kenya had Catherine Kimura, Christopher Nakuleu (Kanu), Mathias Buluma (Ford Kenya), Clarkson Otieno, Sarah Bonaya, Augustine Lotodo, and Reuben Oyondi  of People’s Party of Kenya.

 And between 2001 and 2007 it was current Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar, Safina Kwekwe,  Rose Waruhiu, Ochieng Mbeo, Mohamed Zubedi, Abdirahim Haji, Maxwell Shamala, Lt. Gen. Abdullahi  Adan,  and Jared Kangwana.

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