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Rwanda-Burundi Tensions Simmer at EAC as Speaker Ngoga Faces Exit

Tension is brewing at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) as the region’s court of Justice moves to decide the fate of embattled Speaker, Martin Ngoga.

Ngoga’s team at EALA is accused of planning the ousting of Speaker Margaret Zziwa from office, a move that sparked a leadership crisis at the regional parliament.

However, in the lawsuit brought against the EAC by Zziwa, a Ugandan, the regional body was forced to pay more than $140,000 to the victim three months ago.

And in a judgment handed down in June 2019, the EAC Court of Justice demanded the payment of damages of $825,000 to Zziwa.

ChimpReports has learned that the furious EAC Council of Ministers has since ruled that EALA will have to pay for this big loss.

An MP from Kenya told us on Thursday morning that Ngoga is trying to divert attention from the impending court ruling and previous clandestine actions that caused the toppling of Zziwa, by fueling a debate on the audit of the EAC Secretariat’s operations.

“In an attempt to hoodwink the unsuspecting public, Martin Ngoga is currently directing his desperation and fury at Ambassador Mfumukeko Liberat (EAC Secretary General) and his country Burundi,” said the Arusha-based Kenyan MP who preferred anonymity to speak freely.

“By shouting louder, he hopes to divert the attention of the whole Community from his own fate by hiding the mess in which he has plunged himself,” said the lawmaker, adding, “We warned on against mobilising against Zziwa but he never listened. His actions are set to haunt him. The donors and East African taxpayers will pay $1m because of the actions of Ngoga’s group.”

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Ngoga faces possible exit

The government of Burundi in March 2019 filed a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) challenging the process of electing Ngoga on December, 19 2017.

Burundi argued the elections held in absence of MPs from Burundi and Tanzania were 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.

Burundi further said EALA is governed by the EAC Treaty and the Assembly’s Rules of procedure and that Article 9 (4) of the Treaty obligates Organs and Institutions of the Community to perform the functions and act within the limits of the powers conferred upon them by the Treaty.

The Treaty obligation under Article 57 and rule 12 (1) of EALA Rules of Procedure 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’s lawyers argued that the violation of the rule on quorum entails violation of the Treaty and principles of good governance and rule of law.

Burundi said Ngoga was not elected in accordance with the Treaty and the Rules of the Assembly and therefore asked the Court to order re-election in accordance to the Treaty and rules of the Assembly.

Defence

In defence of Ngoga, lawyers argued that his election was done under Part III of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and that it was not mandatory for every member to vote, hence the Members of Burundi and Tanzania had liberty not to vote.

The lawyers further said that the issue of quorum does not apply, that it only applies when the house is duly constituted.

The defence team said 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.

ChimpReports understands that the Court will July, 2, 2019, make its ruling on the matter.

If the election is found illegal, EALA will have to elect again another speaker and it may be the end of Ngogaʼs reign.

The position of the Speaker is rotational and serves a period of five years.

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