NAIROBI, Kenya, April 27, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- EALA officially ended its two week Sitting (April 16-26, 2012) in Nairobi yesterday. The 4th Meeting of the 5th Session passed five important Bills and moved a key resolution imploring the International Criminal Court to transfer the case of the accused persons -following the aftermath of the 2007 Kenya elections to the East African Court of Justice.
EALA debated and passed the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Bill 2012 which aims at ensuring that persons living with or affected by HIV and AIDS are protected from all forms of abuse, discrimination and are provided with appropriate support, care and treatment services. The Bill further promotes and puts in place prevention programmes which take cognizance of the new knowledge related to treatment and other areas around HIV and AIDS.
The Bill whose prime mover is Hon Lydia Wanyoto-Mutende, seeks to provide for the prevention and management of HIV and AIDS and for the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons living with or affected by the same. The Bill seeks to create a common, responsive legal framework for HIV and AIDS in the region applying the rights based approach and in incorporating good standards and practices in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
The Customs Management Act (Amendment) Bill, 2011 was passed also by EALA. The Bill which modifies the initial Customs Management Act 2004 has with it a new section providing for the prevention and suppression of money laundering, drugs and arms trafficking and infringement of intellectual property rights.
According to the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Hon Musa Sirma, the Bill hopes to fill a lacuna left out by the original Bill and proposes joint engagement in fighting transnational crimes.
The Community Emblems Act (Amendment) Bill 2012 also sailed through the floor of the House. With it, the region shall now institute the EAC anthem as part of the emblems of the Community.. The anthem currently in Swahili shall be used in all future official Community functions. The Bill provides for the translation of the anthem in English to be made available. The EAC anthem was approved by the Summit of the Heads of State on December 3, 2010.
The Community Emblems Act (Amendment) 2012 further provides for preservation of the identity of the Community, emblems and statutory protection of the Community flag and seals.
In terms of human rights, the EAC Human Rights Bill, 2012 is a new law likely to come into effect should the EAC Heads of State assent to the same. The Bill whose prime mover is Hon Frederic Ngenzebuhoro, seeks to give effect to the provisions of the Treaty for EAC on Human and Peoples' rights. The Bill consolidates the various principles on human and people's rights found in the Charter on Human rights and various conventions and agreements including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Right as well as the UN Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. The Bill further provides an institutional framework for research in the area of human rights and will lead to harmonization of applicable principles and rules across board.
And as the region begins its cycle of elections, a new law is expected to moderate the electioneering process in the region. The EAC Elections Bill 2012 seeks to establish the EAC Elections Board which shall inter alia be responsible for setting and harmonizing electoral standards in the Community. It is expected that the standards set by the Board shall be adhered to by all National Electoral Commissions in the Partner States.
The Bill which is moved by Hon Dan Wandera Ogalo also prescribes sanctions for non-adherence to the set standards and provides a consultative forum for political parties in the Partner States.
In his contribution, Hon Dan Kidega noted that the Bill brings a convergence of policies related to elections in the region noting that it was a step in the right direction
Hon Mugisha Muntu said it was important for the Partner States to enhance the capacity and conduct of elections urging the next Assembly (3rd Assembly) to elevate the envisaged Board of elections into a fully-fledged authority with powers to conduct elections in the region.
The House however adjourned the Conflict Management Bill, 2011 to allow more consultations by the Council of Ministers. This was at the request of the Council through a motion for adjournment by the Assistant Minister for EAC, Kenya, Hon Peter Munya. The Bill whose mover is Hon Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo, seeks to operationalise the EAC Conflict Prevention and Resolution Mechanism (CPRM) and to establish a legal framework for co-operation between EAC Partner States in the Conflict Management areas. The Bill draws its genesis from wide ranging consultations arising from a conference on conflict held in Bujumbura in October 2008 which drew the participation of national Parliaments and various ministries including that of Defence and Internal Affairs in the respective States, Civil Society Organizations and the academia.
On resolutions, EALA adopted a resolution urging the EAC Council of Ministers to implore the International Criminal Court to transfer the case of the four accused Kenyans facing trial at the Hague to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).
With that, EALA resolved that the Council of Ministers further submits the resolutions to the 10th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State sitting on 28th April, 2012 to amend Article 27 of the EAC Treaty. Amendment of the Article shall provide jurisdiction to the EACJ giving it retrospective effect, the Assembly stated.
The resolution moved by Hon Dan Ogalo and seconded by Hon Gervase Akhaabi, received overwhelming support during debate on the floor of the House. The resolution in part implores that the process of transfer of proceedings from the International Criminal Court to the East African Court of Justice immediately begins on the basis of the fact that the acts complained of, are contraventions of the Treaty. Four prominent Kenyans namely: the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Uhuru Kenyatta, former head of the Civil Service, Amb Francis Muthaura, former Minister and current Member of Parliament for Eldoret North, Hon William Ruto and radio journalist, Joshua Arap Sang face charges at the Hague based court.
Other reports passed by the Assembly include: the Report of the sixth Inter-Parliamentary Relations Seminar (Nanyuki Series) held in Bujumbura, Burundi in November last year. The report presented by Hon Abdulkarim Harelimana, brought to fore commendable progress realised by the region in the quest towards a Political Federation. the EAC Annual Report 2007/2008 and the corresponding Annual Report of 2008/2009. Both reports reflect the performance of the Community during the years, successes of the period and corresponding challenges faced. The key achievements include among others; the integration of the Republics of Burundi and Rwanda into the Community, the negotiations of the Common Market Protocol and achievements in the key human and social dimensions to the integration agenda.
The Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution Committee presented the Report on the on-spot assessment of the status of implementation on the Common Market Protocol projects in border posts. The border posts visited by the Committee in November 2011 were the Rusumo/Ngara point on the Rwanda and Tanzania border and the Sirari/Isebania on the Kenya and Tanzania border.
The report indicates that in both areas visited, all stakeholders were appreciative of the integration process. However, the report states that it was apparent that majority of the people did not have sufficient knowledge of the operations of the Common Market Protocol. A good number of representatives of the business community were also unaware of the Certificate of Origin, a key document facilitating cross-border trade.
A number of priority questions on matters relevant to the Community were asked by the legislators who sought for answers from the EAC Council of Ministers.
This is the last but one Sitting of the Second Assembly which is credited with passing over 40 pieces of legislation during their five year period. The last Session is scheduled for Arusha in May-June 2012. EALA is expected to swear in Members of the third Assembly on June 5, 2012. A number of legislators including the Speaker, Rt. Hon Abdirahin Abdi shall be stepping down when their mandate ends.