Inside Zziwa’s troubled EALA speakership

On May 21, 2012, Margaret Nantongo Zziwa defeated more than 15 people to get a second term at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA). She was not done though. She would go ahead to defeat Dora Byamukama who was widely believed to be the NRM party candidate to become the regional parliament’s first woman Speaker.

Zziwa, who had garnered the least number of votes during the NRM primaries for the EALA slot, bounced back and won the hotly contested race in Arusha, Tanzania.

But her ascendancy to the Speakership of the regional Parliament only created for her more foes.

Byamukama did not take her loss lightly. She even refused to shake Zziwa’s hand after swearing in as a member of the Assembly. At some point, she threw a bouquet of flowers she had been handed, at Eriya Kategaya (who was then Minister for East African Community Affairs) before leaving the hall.

Though Byamukama later apologised, her actions ever since showed there was no end to the bad blood between the two Ugandan representatives.

Another Ugandan EALA lawmaker Mike Ssebalu, who had his eye on the coveted speakership but had pulled out, was also said to be against Zziwa – albeit silently.

Zziwa wins battle, not the war
Zziwa’s rise to become the EALA speaker can be attributed to the support she had at the EALA Secretariat and the Council of Ministers of the EAC who worked hard to convince EALA members to vote for her.

The council of ministers includes ministers from the member states in charge of the community affairs. Uganda’s representative in the council was the late Kategaya who is said to have favoured her.

The balance was also not in Byamukama’s favour, who some of the members considered “arrogant” going by how she had behaved as a commissioner in the previous Assembly. Zziwa is said to also have had other backers in Mike Mukula, the Soroti Municipality MP and Lydia Wanyoto, a former EALA member.

The former Woman MP for Kampala District also played underhand political tactics including not officially announcing her candidature up to the last hour.
In the end, she won the battle. But her swearing in as Speaker, only opened more fault lines in her wall.

Censure looms
With such a background, Zziwa would start to preside over an Assembly deep-rooted with wrangles, especially among her colleagues in the NRM.
She twice survived a censure orchestrated or supported by her counterparts on grounds of alleged abuse of office.

Out of the nine Ugandan representatives to the regional assembly, six are members of NRM including Zziwa. The other five ganged up against her, with Zziwa instead, getting support from Suzan Nakawuki (Independent) and Fred Mukasa Mbidde (DP). Mbidde would come out to speak strongly against the intrigue and schemes to bring down the now former Speaker.

However, the NRM group in Arusha wooed their colleagues from other partner states to join the scrimmage.

The motion, initially introduced in the Assembly by Peter Mathuki in Arusha during the Fifth Meeting of the Second Session of the third Assembly was cut short when it was adjourned on April 1 sine die (without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing) following two applications made at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), halting the debate.

On June 3, Zziwa ruled on the motion for her removal to have fallen short of the requirements of signatures of at least four elected members from each partner state and thus collapsed. This followed the withdrawal of signatures of three members from Tanzania.

Zziwa based her ruling on Rule 82(2) of Rules of Procedure that grants the Speaker of the Assembly, the final powers on the interpretation and the application of the same. However, prior to that, the Counsel to the Community, Wilbert Kaahwa had maintained that the motion was valid. It would later come to haunt her.

Suspension
On November 26, EALA Members passed a resolution to suspend her for 21 days pending investigations into her conduct.

The resolution was arrived at during a special sitting presided over by Chris Opoka-Okumu, a Ugandan, which also saw the committee on legal affairs. The section of the Assembly that sponsored the motion consisted of 32 of the 45 members, more than the required two-thirds.

This went on despite the November 29 letter, in which the Deputy Attorney General (AG) Fred Ruhindi aised President Museveni that Zziwa’s suspension was not in conformity with EAC treaty and that the rules of the EALA don’t provide for the suspension of the Speaker.

He said the suspension was misconceived because East African Community (EAC) Treaty and the rules of the Assembly did not provide for suspension of the Speaker when proceedings for her removal are commenced.

But, Wilbert Kaahwa, the EAC Attorney General in a November 30 letter addressed to Zziwa’s lawyers sanctioned her suspension.

Kaahwa stated that due process for the suspension of Zziwa was followed and asked her to vacate the office to pave way for investigations into allegations against her. Zziwa then moved to court to restrain the House from convening East African Court of Justice but the regional court kicked out her application. This paved way for the tabling of the report by the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges which convicted her and led to her eventual censure.

The Committee chaired by Frederic Ngenzebuhoro found her guilty of giving priority to unscheduled and personal engagement and failing to discharge her duties in respect of the Assembly.

It also noted the Speaker deliberately refused to submit to the will of the House and Rules of Procedure thus provoking paralysis of the House.
The House then moved to vote on her impeachment with 36 members voting for her removal, two supporting her and one abstaining.

What next?
Immediately after the impeachment results were declared, Joseph Kiangoi (Kenya) requested that the House should there and then move to start the process of finding a replacement.

The Deputy Clerk of EALA, Obatre Lumumba, informed MPs that House rules require that a 48-hours’ notice be respected before nominations are handed in.

The Assembly reconvened on Friday when the Ugandan chapter handed in nominations before another vote decided which Ugandan MP presides over EALA for the remaining two-and-half term of Uganda’s mandate. Daniel Kidega was elected to be new Speaker.

Zziwa’s hope now remains in a suit which has been fixed for February 3, 2015 which is her last hope of returning at the helm of the Assembly. Though Zziwa is looking to redress in court, it all seems his career as Speaker for EALA is for now on halt after two and half years.

Legislators say…
Dora Byamukama-Uganda
“In the next two and half years, I stand committed to whatever it takes for this House to regain its dignity, honour and glory.”
Nusura Tiperu- Uganda
“We love the outgoing Speaker, but we love East Africa more , it has reached the time we make a decision for the people of the region,”
Nkanae Saole Ole – Kenya
“The Speaker created a Monster out of this House, we have turned into Gladiators. It needs to end today.”
Hafsa Mossi – Burundi
“I have failed to see Leadership in the Speaker I hope we make the right decision today.”
Issa Taslima – Tanzania
“Let whatever direction we take, lead us to success, and by the will of the Lord to the satisfaction of East Africans.”
Abubakar Zein Abubakar – Kenya
“We need to make a decision to do our work with honor, dignity and integrity, let us put petty differences aside.”
Dr Odette Nyiramirimo – Rwanda
“The Speaker has failed us I hope we will elect a Member who will restore the dignity of this House.”
Leonce Ndarubagiye – Burundi
“We should exercise our democratic right, we elected the Speaker, we can now vote on the recommendations of the Legal, Rules and Privileges Committee.”

WHO IS NANTONGO ZZIWA?

Born in 1963, Zziwa started her education at Jinja Karoli Primary School and in the mid-1970s joined Kololo SS and Caltec Academy Makerere, before joining Makerere University for a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education.

She holds two masters degrees in Gender and Women Studies obtained from Makerere and another in Social Policy Studies, from the University of Stirling in the UK.

Before joining politics, Zziwa taught Economics and Geography at Kololo Senior Secondary School. She also served as a part-time lecturer at Makerere University.

Between 1993 and 1995, she served as a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1995 Constitution.

From 1996 until 2006, she served two consecutive terms in Uganda’s Parliament as the Woman Member of Parliament for Kampala District.
She has served as one of the nine Ugandan legislators in EALA since 2007.
Zziwa is married to Captain Francis Babu, a former minister.

sdkafeero@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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