Rwanda says a decision by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to dismiss a petition by Burundi challenging the December 2017 election of Rwanda’s Martin Ngoga as Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly should usher in an era of unity in the regional bloc.
Burundi, which boycotted the December 19, 2017 election challenged Mr. Ngoga’s speakership in the wake deteriorating ties between the two neighbours.
Despite Burundi and Tanzania boycotting the election, Ngoga garnered 33 votes in the second round of the vote to beat Burundi’s Leontine Nzeyimana, who got only three votes.
The Burundian government went on to petition the First Instance Division of the regional court challenging the process through which Mr. Ngoga was elected the EALA Speaker, arguing that Burundian and Tanzanian legislators were not part of the electoral process, which they said was in violation of the fundamental Principles of the Community under Articles 6 (d), 7 and 57 (1) and Rule 12 (1) of EALA Rules of Procedure.
EACJ on Tuesday ruled that the election of Mr. Ngoga did not violate the fundamental principles of the East African Community (EAC).
The Minister of State in Charge of the East African Community Olivier Nduhungirehe told KT Press on Tuesday that the ruling should usher in peace and unity in the region and end the stalemate.
“The decision of the EACJ is an important decision that – I hope – will bring unity and serenity in EALA. The East African Community is at a crossroads and needs a focused and committed Assembly, under the speakership of Martin Ngoga,” Amb. Nduhungirehe told KT Press.
By press time, the Burundian government was yet to comment on the ruling which now fully confirms Ngoga as the legitimately elected speaker of the legislative assembly.
Burundi in its petition argued that the column was not full when Ngoga was elected, contending that the issue of quorum is a Treaty obligation under Article 57 and rule 12 (1) of EALA Rules of Procedure which provides that; The quorum of the House or of the Committee of the Whole House shall be half of the elected Members and such quorum shall be composed of at least one third of the elected Members from each Partner State”.
Burundi further argued that the violation of the rule on quorum entails the violation of the Treaty, pointing out that the EALA speaker was not elected in accordance with the law.
EAC said that while Burundi and Tanzania had the right to boycott the vote, it was not reason enough to stop the election from proceeding.
In March this year when the petition was heard, Dr. Anthony Kafumbe, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, stated that it is not mandatory for every member to vote, hence the Members of Burundi and Tanzania had liberty not to vote but the vote had to proceed.
Rule 6 (9) (c) states that; “After all Members who wish to vote have voted, the Clerk shall in full view of the Members present, empty the ballot box and immediately count the ballot paper contained in it”, the EAC proceeds, adding that the issue of quorum is not mandatory.
Dr. Anthony Kafumbe argued that the issue of a quorum does not apply, that it only applies when the house is duly constituted.
He noted that there was no illegal election process, that the Speaker was elected under relevant provisions of the Rules of procedure of the Assembly and that the election process did not violate the Treaty.
Dr. Kafumbe also argued that Members of EALA have accepted Mr. Ngoga as Speaker and that a lot of business is going on and therefore, it would not be helpful to nullify the election and order fresh election.