Political Coordinator for the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Hon. Kerstin Lundgren, Head of the AWEPA Section in the Swedish Parliament, travelled to Entebbe, Uganda, to attend and represent AWEPA at the 7th Inter-Parliamentary Relations Seminar (Nanyuki VII) on 8 June 2013. The conference focused on strengthening the relationships between EALA and national assemblies. Hon. Lundgren shares her experiences and findings with regards to this activity:
With a lot of curiosity, I went to Entebbe to attend my first Nanyuki Inter-Parliamentary Conference with EALA and parliamentarians from the region. I arrived with no concrete expectations regarding what would happen during the event. There were, however, interesting themes to be discussed with many different people, introducing challenges and new views on how to promote a people-centred and market-driven East Africa.
For EALA, this was their 7th inter-parliamentary conference, demonstrating their commitment to taking the goal of the Nanyuki series forward. The key aim of these seminars is to bring together its members and those from national assemblies to discuss the functional relationships of the parliaments, and existing structures of communication and information exchange.
The themes addressed were:
• Political parties, national assemblies and local authorities;
• Academia, media and civil society;
• Private sector, gender and youth.
The discussions gave me an insight into what they see as their challenges, as well as provided me with information about my objective; I was able to learn how I could be supportive and an effective political focal contact from AWEPA for the Speaker of EALA, Hon. Margaret Zziwa.
While listening to the different discussions, I found it odd that the colleagues coming from different countries in East Africa still all spoke English or French; it was as if I was attending a conference in Europe. Then suddenly one of the participants started a discussion regarding this language issue, promoting Kiswahili, and this created a lot of energetic and lively debate in the room. At the end, a decision was taken, to promote this language as a lingua franca of the community.
Another part of the discussion was how to become better connected to the citizens, how to get the information regarding what’s going, as well as how to enhance contact with national parliaments. One question that came out of all discussions was – how can the members follow up on issues? This was also connected to questions about EALA’s ties with national parliaments, which were resolved by EALA agreeing to plan regular meetings with the latter.
On the issue of the youth feeling disconnected to activities of EALA, they requested an invitation to the “house”, which was responded to positively. The questions regarding the media seemed to be related to getting news items on the EALA conference into the media. The solution proposed was to establish local or national media connections. The academics also had quite some discussion on Africa as a whole, and how to increase Pan-African projects. I also listened to the business and trade issues and the problems citizens face with doing business in the region. A lot of discussions were about easing trans-boundary issues and also about the common currency system.
To sum up the lengthy discussions, I found all themes were very interesting and that the suggestions resulting from the event need to be pursued. One early thought I had as a possible recommendation is that discussions could be more effective are prepared with proposals that are sent out to parliamentarians prior to the conference, requesting feedback from the national parliamentarians. All suggestions were more or less approved, though not all of them are realistic to follow-up on. This led to the issue that the national parliaments are facing – difficulty in implementing the decisions taken by EALA. In many cases, that is also linked to conflicting decisions taken by their national governments. However, from what I heard during the conference, I do think that there are some great possibilities and a lot of willingness from the members. Also I must say that Hon. Speaker was amazing – taking part and listening to all the presentations during the whole conference, all the time maintaining a very positive spirit. I leave with lots of hope for EALA.
Political Coordinator AWEPA for EALA