A move to impeach East African Legislative Assembly Speaker Margaret Zziwa floundered yesterday after she sent the assembly on recess shortly after the motion seeking her removal was tabled.
Mr Bobi Odiko, the Eala senior spokesperson, last evening said: “It is true the motion has been tabled and the House has been adjourned indefinitely. The issue is not likely to be debated during the current session.”
The March 27 motion is sponsored by Kenyan representative Peter Mathuki who accuses Ms Zziwa, among other things, of poor governance and leadership skills, abuse of office, disrespect and intimidation of Eala members and staff.
This newspaper was unable to reach Ms Zziwa, but Ugandan representative Chris Opoka, who supports the motion, said the Speaker cited the sub judice rule to halt discussions.
In an application before the East African court of Justice, representative Fred Mbidde contends that the Rules of Procedure of Eala, including Rule 9 on a Speaker’s impeachment, were never in the first place adopted as required under Rule 88.
“The House is sailing without Rules of Procedure, and Ms Zziwa accordingly violated no rule,” Mr Mbidde said yesterday.
He also wants the regional court to pronounce itself on an alleged inaction by EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera and Uganda’s Attorney General, Peter Nyombi accused of failing to advise the assembly.
This is the first time a Speaker of the regional assembly is sized up for removal, but the process has not been without drama.
For instance, two Tanzanian legislators; Charles Makongoro Nyerere and Maryam Ussi Yahya on March 27 withdrew their signatures, claiming they were unaware they had endorsed the Speaker’s censure.
Mr Yahya, however, re-signed the document the same day ostensibly after being properly schooled on the motion and an additional signature of Chapter Chair Adam Kimbisa brought to five the number of Tanzanian representatives who want Ms Zziwa out.
At least four Eala representatives from each member state must sign to validate the motion, and almost 34 of 45 lawmakers have appended their signatures.
Officials of the regional bloc were unwilling to speak on the record of Ms Zziwa’s predicament because of high stakes involved.
But an employee told the Daily Monitor that the Speaker allowed petty unresolved issues and inter-personal differences, particularly with Ugandan representatives to morph into big problems resulting in fall-out.
Yesterday, Mr Mathuki said they were in a consultative meeting to chart the next way forward after the House adjournment.
The assembly is not expected to sit until May, roughly the same time when EAC Court of Justice currently on leave, has scheduled to begin hearing Mr Mbidde’s case.
President Museveni on Monday met a section of Ugandan EALA representatives subscribing to the ruling NRM party, as a follow up to a previous meeting between the President, Ms Zziwa and two female colleagues.
State House officials were not available to provide details of the discussions but a source that preferred anonymity said Mr Museveni impressed upon his party members to go slow on the censure motion to allow for political consultation.
Last week, the EAC Summit chair was in Arusha and reportedly intervened without much success.
How zziwa censure could affect eac
If Ms Zziwa’s case exposed the tension suffocating Eala business, it has revealed various legal loopholes created by the EAC Treaty framers.
For instance, the regional legislature has no Deputy Speaker, meaning if Ms Zziwa is impeached, the assembly would not sit until a new Speaker is elected. There is no express provision on whether Uganda would still retain the EALA Speakership in the event of the removal of the incumbent or it would pass to the next country in the queue. The present scenario has been complicated by the fact that Ms Byamukama, who lost the coveted position to Ms Zziwa, chairs the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges that would otherwise investigate the Speaker.
The House Rules do not say whether she must disqualify herself from handling the case of Ms Zziwa. A senior official said such a decision is within her discretion.