What is the role of the East African Legislative Assembly as Uganda sends nine representatives?

On Thursday September 29, the country witnessed yet another dramatic event in which the Parliament elected Uganda’s nine representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

The elections that attracted 28 Ugandans competing for the nine slots saw chaotic scenes when Aringa North legislator, Alioni Yorke grabbed the ballot box claiming that the early voting process amounted to vote rigging through ballot stuffing.

For the first time, the legislators started voting when the candidates were inside the Chamber explaining their agenda and what they seek to contribute if elected to EALA.

Alioni was on Tuesday arrested before being charged with assault on Wednesday as a result of his behavior when he manhandled one of the Parliamentary police officers that were manning the EALA voting process.

During the campaigns on the floor of Parliament on Thursday, the Members of Parliament were treated to several promises that include helping them to win elections in 2026 if they are sent to EALA in Arusha.

The elections saw National Resistance Movement (NRM) secure a second term for its six representatives before former MPs Jacqueline Amongin and Veronica Kadogo sailed through as Independents with the last spot being taken by Democratic Party candidate Gerald Siranda.

The election of three new entrants and retaining of the six NRM members marks the end of the journey Chris Opoka of Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Mukasa Mbidde of Democratic Party and independent Susan Nakawuki who will in December complete their two terms.

What does EALA do?

Many people have been wondering what the role for EALA is in a region that has member states with vibrant national assemblies. The EALA has not had the visibility that it requires and has been overshadowed by the national assemblies of the partner States.

EALA with its Chambers in Arusha, Tanzania is established under Article 49 of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty established as the legislative organ of the Community.  EALA’s core functions are legislation, oversight and representation.

Under the treaty, EALA liaises with the national assemblies of the partner States on matters relating to the EAC; debates and approves the community budget; considers annual reports on the activities of the Community; and, Audit reports for the EAC Commission.

Like the national Parliaments where the Bills for considered laws are processed, EALA also enacts the laws that are necessary for the implementation of the treaty. It also discusses matters pertaining to the Community and makes recommendations to the Council of Ministers before being endorsed by the summit.

Similar to the way the national parliaments operate, EALA lawmakers are deployed to different committees where different matters are considered before being adopted in the form of reports by the whole House.

The seven standing committees of EALA are: Accounts; Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources; General Purpose; Commission; Legal, Rules and Privileges; Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution; and Trade Communication and Investment.

In EALA, every partner State sends nine representatives who are also accompanied by one ex-officio that is the Minister responsible for East African Community Affairs while the Secretary General and Counsel of the community are also members without voting rights.

The role of the ex-officios who can participate in the debate without voting is to report to the Assembly on the partner State’s implementation of the Treaty.

Uganda’s team

The team for the 5th Assembly whose term runs from 2022 to 2027 will be sworn in at Arusha in December. But who are the nine representatives that will represent Uganda’s interests in the regional Parliament?

Kakooza James

He was elected to EALA in July last year to replace the late Mathias Kasamba who was snatched by death before completing his first term at Arusha.  Kakooza defeated former State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda.

In Arusha, he is currently sitting on the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, and also the Committee on Accounts.

He is the immediate former MP for Kabula County in Lyantonde District which he represented from 2001.

Kakooza who is professionally an Accountant also served briefly as State Minister for Health in charge of Primary Healthcare in 2009.

Born on February 18, 1962, Kakooza holds a Bachelor degree in Business Administration from Nkumba University, a Diploma in Clearing and Forwarding, and a Certificate in Customs Basics and Tax Administration.

Before joining politics, Kakooza worked as an Accounts Officer at Karibu Forex Bureau; Banking Officer in Sembule Bank that furthered Bank of Africa; Clearing and Forwarding Agent; Business Director for Kabale Distributors Limited; and, Director of the Uganda Importers and Exporters Traders Association.

Rose Akol

She is going to serve the second and last term at Arusha after topping the list in the recent elections in Parliament.  The 57 year-old went to EALA in 2017 after being knocked off local politics when she lost the Bukedea District woman MP seat to current Speaker Anita Among in 2016.

At EALA, she currently is a member of the Commission and sits on the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges. Another Committee to which she is assigned is the one on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution.

While serving as woman MP for Bukedea District, Akol was appointed Minister for Internal Affairs replacing the late Gen Aronda Nyakairima in 2015.

A holder of a Master’s in Business Administration degree in finance and accounting from Makerere University Business School, Akol worked as Assistant Accountant at the Uganda Export Promotions Council; Accountant at the Karamoja Development Agency;  Senior internal auditor at the Uganda Airlines Corporation; and head of internal audit at the Joint Clinical Research Centre.

Mary Mugyenyi

She is also among the six that were elected unopposed by the NRM organs to run for a second term before sailing through in the vote in Parliament.

This ending term, Mugyenyi has served as a member of the EALA Commission and has also been sitting on two Committees. These are; Committee on Communication, Trade and Investment; and, Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution.

Before going to Arusha, Mugyenyi was MP for Nyabushozi County in Kiruhura District and also served as State Minister for Agriculture.  During her time in Parliament, she also represented Uganda in the Pan-African Parliament which sits in South Africa.

She holds a master’s degree in Education from Dalhousie University, Canada, and a bachelor’s degree in politics and administration from Makerere University. Outside politics, she served as Vice Chairperson for Uganda Management Institute Council and lecturer at Makerere University.

 Musamali Paul

He is one of the few who have gone to the Arusha without first serving in the local politics. Musamali was Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Government Chief Whip where he worked closely with MPs who voted him for the EALA seat.

The only time he had participated in competitive politics was in 2003 when he lost to Justice Forum (Jeema) party candidate Yusuf Kiranda.

A Social Worker, Musamali won the trust of the NRM when he worked as a party Researcher in Parliament and one of his roles was to do research for the ruling party in the House and also for the MPs. Before that, he has served as a Researcher in the State House, an opportunity that put him closer to the President.

In spite of the loss, he suffered in Makerere University Guild President race, Musamali persisted and formed the NRM forum for Makerere University, a mobilization entity, which he used to recruit over 3,000 students, who were trained at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi in basic military skills.

Denis Namara

Namara was in 2017 elected to EALA at the age of 33 becoming the youngest Ugandan member of the regional assembly.

In the 4th Assembly, Namara is a member of the Committee on General Purposes and also the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges.

A lawyer by profession, Namara served in a leadership capacity as the National NRM youth chairman league.

Before the age of 30, Namara was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni to serve as Senior Presidential Advisor on Youth Affairs.

George Odongo

Also not a politician before getting the blessings of the NRM to represent Uganda in EALA in 2017, Odongo will be serving his second and last term in Arusha. Hailing from Lango Sub-region, he was elected to step in the shoes of former Speaker of EALA Dan Kidega in the northern quarter. The NRM distributes the six slots it has in EALA across the major regions of Uganda- that is to say, northern, eastern, central, and western as a way of giving the representation a national outlook.

He sits on the EALA Committee on Communication, Trade and Investment. The second Committee is on General Purposes.

Odongo, an economist by profession, also holds a Master’s degree in International Trade Polity and Postgraduate diploma in public policy. Before joining politics, he was the Resident District Commissioner for Lira District. 

Jacqueline Amongin

She leads the legion of the new entrants to EALA after emerging one of the two candidates that scored the highest among the 18 independents that were battling for a ticket to Arusha.

Amongin, 40, is the immediate former Woman MP of Ngora District after she lost to the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Stella Isodo Apolot.

Known for her vocal attributes during Parliament debates, Amongin is a member of the NRM that decided to run as an independent for EALA elections.

During the 10th Parliament, Amongin was a member of the Pan-African Parliament from 2013 to 2021.

She graduated from Makerere University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Environmental Management before securing a job at the Pan African Movement as a communications. She later served as a Global Pan African Movement Program Officer until 2010 when she contested for a Parliamentary seat.

In 2018 she was chosen from nearly 5,000 candidates to be awarded the Mandela Leadership Prize in recognition of her work with the Pan African Parliament in promoting good governance and development in Africa. The award was handed to Amongin by the Mandela Institute in Paris.

Veronica Kadogo

Like Amongin, she failed to make it to the 11th Parliament. She is the immediate former women MP for Buyende District.

Kadogo, 45, also sailed through to EALA as an independent candidate. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Makerere University. In 2005 she graduated from Kyambogo University with a Bachelor Degree Management Science degree and also a diploma in Business Administration from the same institution.

Kadogo served at Makerere University as a Procurement Officer, Records Officer and Store Keeper.

In the 10th parliament, she was appointed Vice Chairperson of the Committee on East African Community Affairs. During the same term she had served as a member of the on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and the committee on Local Government Accounts.

She also served in the Pan African Parliament in 2016 and actively participated in the 11th Pan African Parliament Conference on the rights of Women in Kigali, Rwanda in November 2018.

Gerald Siranda

He is the only member of the opposition in the group of nine. The Secretary General of the Democratic Party was among those predicted to take one of the two slots that have been going to the opposition because of the recent cooperation agreement signed between his party and NRM. 

But this time, two independent candidates scored higher than UPC’s Fred Ebil to close him out of the EALA as a second opposition representative.

Siranda holds a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, Human Rights and Conflicts from the Open University, UK, and a master’s degree in Gender, Sexuality, Human Rights and Forced Migration from Lund University, Stockholm, Sweden

A graduate of ethics and development from Uganda Martyrs University, he was deputy Programme Manager of the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University. He also taught at the Lund University in Sweden as a visiting lecturer.

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