Five members of the East African Legislative Assembly from Burundi will on Monday afternoon be required by the Speaker of the regional parliament to explain why they missed a crucial session without official explanation. Some members of the Burundi delegation were present.
At the opening function of the two-week session, when the Speaker Daniel Fred Kidega introduced the Burundian lawmakers, there was length and loud applause for the four who stood up to be recognized. Burundi has nine members of the assembly, but all who are members of the ruling party in Burundi did not show up in Kigali – for the rotating session of the assembly.
Speaking to journalists after the morning session, EALA Speaker Kidega said the members from Burundi did not make any official communication.
Government in Burundi has been blocking its officials from attending events of the six-member East African Community (EAC) regional bloc which are held in Kigali. Burundi accuses Rwanda of fomenting the current political crisis that has left hundreds killed and more than 250,000 refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.
Rwanda is hosting more than 80,000 of the refugees. Kigali has dismissed Bujumbura’s claims as a purely internal Burundian crisis.
“I never received any explanations from the members of EALA from Burundi on why they did not attend the sitting in Kigali,” EALA Speaker Kidega said. “But I will have to summon them to explain why they decided so and this will be done in accordance with the law…It is true that some of these members from Burundi raised to me issues of their security while in Rwanda. But I have made all arrangements and their safety in Rwanda has been granted.”
Earlier during the opening session at parliamentary buildings, President Paul Kagame said a divided region cannot make any progress.
Citing the recent task given to him to reform the African Union, President Kagame said continued institutional reform across all regional blocs was necessary to sustainably manage the continent’s development agenda from “Africa’s own resources”.
“We urgently need an African Union that is fit-for-purpose,” he said. “Our continent must also have a strong and unified voice that clearly communicates the aspirations and positions of Africa on the global stage.”
The President added that the reforms agreed upon “will bring us much closer to this goal if they are implemented without delay.”
The President reminded members of the EALA that whether at the continental or the regional level, “our goals will not be attained if we get lost in counterproductive divisions and prioritise narrow interests over the common good, as we keep seeing in various contexts.”
On integration, the President said it is really about working together to advance everybody’s interests.
When the good progress made internally by each country is aggregated, the benefits are “even better for everybody in our region”, he said.
Kagame stressed that there is no disadvantage from minding each other’s business, which simply means taking our respective needs and interests seriously and indeed adopting them as common objectives.
“This is because integration is not a zero-sum game. When we work together, we are all better off. When we work against each other, everyone is worse off and a loser. So let’s empower our institutions to do what they are supposed to do in support of our collective prosperity,” he said.
The President reassured EALA session that Rwanda’s commitment to the East African Community, ten years after the country acceded to the treaty, “is stronger than ever.”
Today’s special sitting which ends on 16th this month, is in line with Article 64 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC as is customary whenever EALA sits in the Partner States.
The three key Bills on the agenda are the EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill, 2016, the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2016 and the EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Bill, 2016.
As per the rules of EALA sessions and structure, the 4 Burundian members present at today’s sitting in Kigali, make the required percentage for the sessions to be carried on.
Meanwhile, at the press briefing earlier with Speaker Kidega, Rwanda lawmaker Patricia Hajabakiga said there has never been any security threat on Burundians from Rwanda.
“Our members from Burundi are here present and secure…and we have cordially been holding sessions,” she said.