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By East African Legislative Assembly (EALA)
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KIGALI, Rwanda, May 7, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The EAC Bureau of Speakers has today rallied its support for the establishment of the East African Parliamentary Institute (EAPI) in a move geared towards building institutional capacities of legislators and parliamentary staff in the region.

The Speakers Forum under which the Speakers met in Kigali, Rwanda, also elected the Speaker of the Rwanda Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) Rt. Hon Rose Mukantabana as its new Chairperson, taking over from the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga.

The EAPI is an initiative of EALA in consultation with the National Assemblies and is envisaged to be established as an institution of the EAC. In September 2011, EALA passed the East African Parliamentary Institute (EAPI) Bill, 2011 providing the legal framework for the establishment of Institute. The Bill which inter alia establishes a mechanism for capacity and skills development to promote professionalism is now in the process of assent. Already, the Presidents of the Republics of Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have assented to the Bill. The Bill is now before the President of the United Republic of Tanzania who is expected to assent to the same.

EALA recently signed a Memorundum of Understanding with the State University of New York (SUNY) Kenya to fund the initial set up of the Institute over the next three years with other finances expected from the National Assemblies with effect from the Financial Year 2013/2014.

On relations between EALA and National Assemblies, it was noted that Parliament of Uganda had moved ahead and established a Standing Committee solely responsible for EAC affairs. The Forum thus urged other Partner States' National Assemblies to as much as possible; establish Committees responsible for EAC Affairs so that matters of integration are discussed on more regular basis. At the moment, EAC matters are handled under Committees responsible for Foreign Affairs in the rest of the Partner States. The meeting further urged the Assemblies to move with haste and amend their respective Rules of Procedure to incorporate the harmonized Rules of Procedure on how to handle EALA business. So far, the Standing Orders of the Parliaments of Kenya and Uganda have been revised to include modalities of bringing the business of EALA to the House with other Assemblies expected to follow suit shortly.

The meeting held at the Parliament of Rwanda, was attended by the EALA Speaker, Rt. Hon Abdirahin Abdi, the President of the Rwanda Senate, Rt Hon Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo, Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker, Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon Kenneth Marende, Speaker of the Kenya National Assembly, Rt. Hon Pie Ntavyohanyuma, Speaker of the Burundi National Assembly and Rt. Hon Anna Makinda, Speaker of the Parliament of Tanzania. In attendance were the Clerks and select staff representing the National Assemblies and EALA.

On elections of EALA Members, it was stated the National Assemblies of Tanzania and Burundi had finalised their elections by end of April this year as per the request of the earlier meeting of the Bureau of Speakers.

Similar processes of elections are currently on-going in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The Speaker of Uganda, Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga noted that her Parliament was however waiting for judgment on the cases pending before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) on the matters of EALA Members, before the said elections are held.

In her statement, Rt. Hon Mukantabana noted that the EAC had made remarkable strides in the integration progress saying that there was no point of return. She noted that critical legal regulatory systems shall need to be looked into to enable the uptake of the Common Market Protocol. She said Parliaments had a fundamental role to play in legislation, oversight and representative mandate of the Community.

The Speaker of the Burundi National Assembly, Hon Pie Ntavyohanyuma hailed the existing peace and security in the region and said Burundi was on the verge of establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). Rt. Hon Ntavyohanyuma remarked that his Parliament was gearing towards enacting laws that would ensure implementation of the TRC. On his part, Rt. Hon Kenneth Marende acknowledged the contribution of the Speakers for their contribution to the cherished dream of a united East Africa. Rt. Hon Anna Makinda urged the Assemblies to take the lead in steering the integration process noting that their mandate remained key.

The Bureau of Speakers further urged all Partner States to remove all NTBs and called for the matter to be addressed as a matter of urgency. 'There is need to fast-track the removal of NTBs', they noted, while endorsing the Communiqué of the 10th Extraordinary Summit that discussed the subject matter. The Speakers thus urged the Assemblies to enhance their oversight role in ensuring the NTBs were removed if the objectives of the EAC are to be realised.