By Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi
Like the European Parliament, the East Africa Legislative Assembly(EALA) should be directly elected by the people in the member countries.
This will not only cement the sovereignty of the people in East Africa, but it will also popularize the community and the ultimate goal of a political federation.
While present EALA and the second community is better than the first community (1967-1977) where the EALA members were appointed by the presidents of the member states, down the road, parliaments are now acting as electoral colleges, is enough and it is high time, members of East Africa Legislative Assembly were directly elected by the people.
If we had a direct election right now, it would have been the topical issue among peasants and workers in the rural and urban rich and poor. But now it is only topical among the political elites. Even it has not yet taken a center stage among the professionals, business community and civil society.
l am aware that Uganda under National Resistance Movement (NRM) believes in the sovereignty of the people hence the direct election of the President. Under the 1962 Independence Constitution and 1967 Republican Constitution, presidents were elected by parliament acting as an electoral college.
The worse was under 1962 Constitution where the people of Buganda were not allowed to elect for their members of Parliament. The Lukiiko, Buganda’s Regional Assembly, acted as an electoral college, and voted for them MPs. No wonder almost all betrayed the Kabaka and Buganda and crossed the floor from Kabaka Yekka to UPC forming the UPC/KY unholy alliance.
But in some other member states, where sectarianism and regionalism are the order of the day, however munch they have practiced general elections be presidential and parliamentary, and others have never held elections at, it may be difficult for implementation this time after the expiry of the current term in December 2022.
However, more popular participation will be a good ingredient in regional integration. Take an example of Organization for Africa Unity formed in 1963. It only had a summit of the heads of state and government and a council of foreign ministers. It had no parliament until it changed name to Africa Union in 2002 as a result of the OAU Special session the late Col.Muammar El Qaddaffi convened at his home Sirte town on September 9th 1999. Now the pan African Parliament elected by parliaments of member states from the MPs themselves has made it more popular.
Older regional bodies like League of Arab States, are still now not well routed despite the fact that the great Arab nation, as Arabs call it, has a common religion, language and culture. But it is still divided into artificial colonial and neo colonial states some of which like Libya , Syria ,Iraq , the Sudan and Somalia, are bound to collapse if they have not collapsed already.
Like EU, the East Africa Community member states may not all join the political federation / confederation at the same time. Those ready can federate with the center first, as others join later. In setting OAU in 1963, some countries like Ghana, Guinea, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt were ready for a political federation, and others like Tanzania, were for regional groupings like East Africa Federation. Had those for a political federation, moved an inch, we would have a good experiment for better or worse. Even those for regional groupings, only Tanganyika and Zanzibar federated in 1964 to have Tanzania, Senegal and Gambia tried and failed. Resolutions for federating Egypt, Libya and the Sudan only remained on paper. Instead, Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia and South Sudan from the Sudan, and it is UN and AU through AMISOM, where Uganda takes the lead, that has kept a government in Somalia together.
Fortunately, a Constitutional Commission under Justice Benjamin Odoki in collecting views for writing a draft constitution for an East Africa Federation/Confederation, and direct election of EALA members should be greatly considered.
If we retain nine members for each state however big or small it is, as for Uganda, eight members should one male and another female, basing on traditional four regions; Buganda, Eastern, Western and Northern, and the nine be a youth representative who can be elected through an electoral college.
When an attempt was tried for the East Africa Federation in 1964, where even Somalia had an interest, Uganda was not ready. Apart from Milton Obote fearing that he could not compete with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for president, and hence supported for Kwame Nkrumah’s United States of Africa which he knew, that was still utopian (Read Sowing The Mustard Seed 1997 by President Yoweri Museveni), Buganda also wanted to go to federate with East Africa directly, without passing through Uganda.
Similar sentiments have been heard from Zanzibar where they want to federate with East Africa without passing through Tanzania. That means that at the promulgation of the federation, colonial states can be dismantled and we start afresh basing on traditional regions in member states. But this should not be an event. It should be a process.
With the will of God, the East Africa Federation is no longer a remote dream. It can be achieved in our lifetime.
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