It is important for the members of the Assembly to feel safe to carry on with their mandate. This is why we need to protect them
The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has moved to protect the seats of the four Burundian representatives despite pressure from home to have them recalled.
Urging Partner States to respect the privileges and immunities of members as enshrined in the EAC Treaty, the Assembly upheld the decision to retain their seats.
This was after the Assembly adopted a report of the Committee on Legal Rules and Privileges on the consideration of a Resolution arising from a threat of tenure of office of the four Members.
The members are Jeremie Ngendakumana, Frederic Ngenzebuhoro, Yves Nsabimana and Dr. Martin Nduwimana.
In November 2015, the Speaker of the Burundi National Assembly, Pascal Nyabenda wrote to the EALA Speaker, ceasing membership of the four members.
According to Nyabenda, the conditions through which the members were elected had changed. Nyabenda said the party on whose strength the two members were elected to EALA was no longer represented in the Burundi National Assembly and the other had resigned from their parties.
But EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega, in his response, argued that his counterpart's demands contravened section 51 of the EAC Treaty among other provisions.
A statement by the EALA secretariat stated that while discussing the report presented by Peter Mathuki, Chairperson of the Committee, the members argued that matters of privileges of Members touch on the integrity and independence of the Assembly and that any threats bring with it a potential to undermine the authority of the Assembly and compromises its functioning under the EAC Treaty.
During debate Abubakar Zein said the sovereignty of Members of the Assembly was key and that it was imperative for the Assembly to analyse the context in which the letter was written as well as the impact such would have on them.
"It is important for the members of the Assembly to feel safe to carry on with their mandate. This is why we need to protect them," he said.
Mumbi Ngaru said that it was necessary for the Report of the Committee to have gone deeper bearing in mind that the tenure of Members must come to an end at some point.
Joseph Kiangoi said the provisions of membership of EALA within the EAC Treaty was clear but Dora Byamukama cautioned members saying the Motion was delicate and thus it was necessary to be considerate and diplomatic in handling the matter.
The Resolution moved in November 2015 by AbuBakr Ogle, had advised the Assembly to urge Partner States not to introduce attempts to manipulate institutions, threaten Members or undermine their status, terming such a move unlawful and an affront to the principles under the EAC Treaty.
Chris Opoka said the said the legitimacy of membership of the four Members in question cannot be said to have ceased simply because their parties were not in Parliament.
Others who supported the Report and the Resolution included Hon Dr. Martin Nduwimana, Hon Sarah Bonaya and Hon Martin Ngoga.
The Minister in the Office of the President in charge of EAC Affairs, Hon Leontine Nzeyimana stated that it was necessary for the law of the Partner States to be respected stating that Partner States had interests in the Community and that such must be respected.