Since 2002, AWEPA has been working closely with the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the legislative branch of the East African Community (EAC), to empower and strengthen the capacities of this institution.
The EALA Capacity Development Programme, entitled “An Empowered and Effective East African Legislative Assembly”, kicked off in 2011 and came to an end in June 2016. This is therefore a good moment to take a closer look at the programme’s highlights over this five-year period, and reflect on the main impacts AWEPA has made.
Between 2011 and 2016, the EALA programme was funded by Irish Aid, the Government of Sweden and the Government of Norway. In 2011, Irish Aid provided support to, amongst others, EALA Committee workshops, sensitisation of the public in the EAC region, the Nanyuki Seminar, the meeting of the EAC Bureau of Speakers and training of EALA staff. Sweden and Norway supported the programme from 2011 until 2016 and focused on the five results areas as described below.
In line with the vision of a prosperous, competitive, secure and politically united East African Community, the overall objective of the EALA Capacity Development Programme was to contribute to accelerated, harmonious and balanced development and to continued democratisation in East Africa.
The AWEPA programme purpose was to empower EALA to effectively carry out its legislative, representative and oversight roles in the deepening and widening of the EAC integration process and the cooperation among the EAC Partner States in political, economic, social and cultural fields for their mutual benefit and the benefit of its people.
With these objectives in mind, and in close cooperation with the EALA, AWEPA supported a range of programme activities which took place alongside, and often strengthened, other EALA activities and initiatives. Among the combined impacts of these different initiatives is the development and enactment of legislation required for EAC integration, as well as increased interaction between the EALA and the national parliaments of the EAC Partner States, thereby creating deeper regional commitment to enhance such integration.
In addition, there have been various efforts to reach out to citizens and stakeholders. The success of sensitisation initiatives has led to more petitions being presented to EALA by citizens for the purposes of shaping and influencing the legislative agenda. The Assembly has increased its efforts to deal with these and is committed to increase the level of public participation in law making and oversight in general.
More particularly, AWEPA’s impact has touched five main areas of EALA’s work:
1. An enhanced Legislative Role for EALA
Throughout the programme, AWEPA facilitated in-depth studies on nine Private Member Bills. Support in the development of these Bills has been crucial since comprehensive Private Member Bills provide the Assembly with the means to tackle matters that are directly linked to livelihood support for EAC citizens.
In addition, by supporting public hearings on Bills before the House, AWEPA has facilitated EALA Members to engage in consultations with the beneficiaries and this has resulted in more responsive legislation.
2. Effective outreach and representation
In addition to the institutionalisation of public hearings for Bills under review and sensitisation efforts, AWEPA has contributed to the development of a framework to guide and standardise interactions between EALA and representatives of the people, namely civil society organisations, community-based organisations, and the private sector. It is expected that the framework will increase and smoothen interactions between the Assembly and these representatives.
3. Enhanced Oversight Role
A number of successful oversight activities were carried out as part of the programme. These included oversight training for all Members of the Third Assembly upon its start in 2012. The training equipped these Members with the necessary skills to produce quality oversight reports which feed into the meetings of the Council of Ministers.
Other oversight activities to receive support from AWEPA included assessments of the challenges experienced in relation to the EAC Common Market and Customs Union, specific EAC laws, or the harmonisation of national laws.
4. Effective linkages with National Assemblies, other regional Parliaments and internationally
In order to enhance parliamentary cooperation within the EAC region, AWEPA facilitated regional linkages such as meetings of the EAC Speakers, Clerks and Senior Parliamentary Officials. Effective linkages at the regional level have resulted in appreciation of the partners work, enhanced practices and, in some cases, harmonisation of laws.
One example of this work is the facilitation of the Nanyuki Seminar Series. This series of regional seminars serves to strengthen the functional relationship between EALA and the EAC National Parliaments and to widen and deepen knowledge of the EAC and the integration process.
The Seminars provided an opportunity for discussion on matters of great importance to the region and resulted in proposals for joint efforts to tackle regional challenges.
More on the Nanyuki IX Seminar, held in March 2016, here.
5. Increased institutional and organisational capacity
As part of its work in this area, AWEPA facilitated training on the legislative and oversight mandate for all Assembly Members. In addition, with the Fourth Assembly due to take over in 2017, a Guide to Parliamentary Practices and Procedures of the EALA has been developed with support from AWEPA, as part of the induction training of the new Assembly.
The programme also supported the development of EALA’s Strategic Plan 2013-2018, which provides the Assembly with a clear framework to achieve its vision, mission and objectives to spur social, economic and political growth of a united East Africa.
AWEPA’s support to EALA will continue through a new programme entitled “Regional African Parliaments in Development Programme: Taking Up the Challenges and Opportunities of the Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2017)”, which is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
Through this programme, AWEPA aims to ensure follow-up and continuity to the previous programmes aimed at building the capacity of regional parliaments including EALA and to ensure that these parliaments continue to play a role in international fora.