Mistrust, accusations of injustice as states fall out over EAC job openings.
The East African Community’s legislative assembly stopped the appointment of House clerks this week, citing anomalies in the recruitment process, bringing a decade-long conflict over the distribution of employment in the bloc’s organs to a climax.
The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in Arusha engaged in cat-and-mouse games over the employment of a clerk and a deputy, signalling simmering displeasure with the Community’s staffing ratios.
Ugandan legislators, led by Denis Namara, have been in the forefront of the fight for equal pay in staff recruitment, staging spectacular walkouts that forced Speaker Martin Ngoga to issue a quorum suspension from Tuesday to Thursday.
The Eala began sittings on October 3 in Arusha and will continue through October 20.
Early this year, the EAC Secretariat advertised at least 60 empty positions, prompting bad blood and unhealthy competitiveness among the six partner members.
At the request of Uganda’s EAC Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga, who had apparently travelled, an exceptional Council of Ministers meeting set for last Wednesday, which was intended to finalise the personnel recruitment process, had to be postponed to a later date, maybe next week.
Ms Kadaga responded to the Secretary-General later on Friday, requesting that the interviews scheduled for October 18 for different listed vacancies at EAC organs and institutions be postponed.
“As you are aware, EAC partner states agreed that a partner state must have points in order for its citizens to be considered eligible applicants, and that the EAC Secretariat shall advise each partner state of her weighted point balance at the start of each recruiting operation” (refer to Article 4.6 of the Operational Manual for Implementation of the Quota System).
In light of the foregoing, the Republic of Uganda proposes that the interviews be postponed “until the Secretariat provides the available quota points for each partner state at the time/date of advertising the posts,” according to the later dated October 15, 2021.
Some have interpreted the Ugandan MPs’ actions as malicious, claiming that they have gone to tremendous lengths to get their way.
Mr Namara, chair of the General Purpose (Budget) Committee, stated in a motion introduced in the Assembly that the procedure of selecting a House clerk and deputy, which was advertised in July, did not follow the EAC’s quota system, which promotes parity in personnel.
Mr Namara stated, “We want the EAC to suspend the entire staff recruitment process for breaking the principles and regulations of integration, the Treaty, the Staff Rules and Regulations, and the operational manual for quota system implementation.”
“In the ongoing recruitment exercise, we demand for a forensic audit of the quota system and limits applied to citizens for partner states in job postings, application receipt, profiling, short-listing, and interviewing of candidates,” he added.
Mr. Namara wants the interviews to be conducted by an independent firm.
There have been no substantive clerks at Eala. In the meanwhile, the present occupants of the position are on six-month non-renewable contracts.
Because the post called for a candidate who had previously worked as a deputy clerk, a Ugandan applicant who had previously worked as a deputy clerk was given preference.
However, the panel, which consisted of clerks of national assemblies from each partner state, chose a candidate from Tanzania, maybe to avoid previous Community personnel. The Ugandan MPs were not pleased, and they moved to file a minority resolution to voice their discontent.
The Ugandan legislators claim that Alex Lumumba Obatre outperformed his Tanzanian counterpart Saidi Othman Yakubu.
This statement is supported by documents in the MPs’ possession, which The EastAfrican saw but whose authenticity could not be verified right away.
“Let employment be awarded on merit,” Ugandan legislator Suzan Nakawuki remarked.
“The advertisement requested someone who has at least served at the rank of a deputy clerk,” Mr Namara said when introducing his motion on Tuesday. “But they want to send us someone who was a secretary of the Speaker, and we are saying that’s not acceptable.” Rwanda and South Sudan have no personnel, while Burundi has one and Uganda has two, according to him.
“However, some people want to give more to Tanzania (which has four) and Kenya (which has three),” Mr Namara explained.
“If we don’t fight hard, the system will marginalise us in the Community,” another Ugandan politician, Paul Musamali, stated.
Speaker Ngoga was accused of being biassed by the MPs. The diplomatic enmity between Uganda and Rwanda appeared to be playing out, with Mr Ngoga (a Rwandan) volunteering to step aside and let someone else conduct the proceedings at one point.
Mr Ngoga stated, “Throughout my career, I have used standards that are beyond suspicion.” “I can use Rule 41 and delegate this to someone else… I don’t want to preside over a process in which certain people are treated unfairly.”
Tanzanian lawmakers set the foundation for a crisis on October 12 when they walked out of the chambers, halting debate, and Ugandans and South Sudanese followed suit the next two days.
The stakes are so high that Juba MPs voted to replace their chair, Thomas Dut Gatkek, with Dr Anne Itto Leonardo. The MPs said they reached the decision during a meeting in Arusha on Wednesday, according to a letter dated October 14 delivered to Andrea Malueth, the Undersecretary of the South Sudan EAC Affairs ministry.
“We, as well as the Ugandan branch, are concerned about the recruiting process’s injustice.” Because the quota system hasn’t been used, we’d like the recruitment process to come to a halt so that it can begin properly,” Dr. Itto told The EastAfrican.
She stated that they are fighting for recruitment justice and fairness.
The Juba Chapter wants affirmative action to be used so that South Sudanese people profit in the same way that Rwandans and Burundians benefited when they joined the bloc. In a letter dated October 13, Dr. Mathuki recognised their request and pledged to follow through.
“We are seeking approval from the Council for the present recruiting as well as the 15 vacancies that were not shortlisted. In his letter to Council chair Adan Mohamed, Dr. Mathuki writes, “This was done for the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Burundi when they joined the community.”
To reflect the equitable participation of partner states, the rules and regulations mandate that staff be recruited under a quota system.
Abdullah Hasnuu Makame, a Tanzanian legislator, believes the topic should be decided by the Council of Ministers.
“We shouldn’t be discussing this here because our mandate is to represent people, pass laws, and provide oversight, and the council has already stated that this is not the place to do so. “The problem is, every procedure was followed, and every country was represented,” he explained.
Dr. Mathuki, the Secretary-General of the EAC, concurred with the legislator.
“The Council of Ministers is in charge of EAC recruitment, including short-listing and profiling. The clerks of national assemblies of partner nations conduct the interviews for EALA staff, who then present their findings to the Council. The final decision is made by the Council. After that, the SG can send out appointment letters. “The process is still ongoing, and the appointments have not yet been finalised,” he explained.
Due to disputes among partner states, the EAC has been unable to hire staff for nearly a decade. Two Ugandans filed a complaint with the East African Court of Justice last month, requesting that the present recruitment be halted.
The EAC Staff Rules and Regulations were published by the Council in 2006. The Secretary-General advertises for each position, shortlists no more than three candidates from each partner state, and chairs an interview panel comprised of members from each partner state, EAC entity, and institution.
However, claims of nepotism, favouritism, and corruption at the EAC secretariat tainted the process. A lobby called Citizens of East Africa petitioned the Council, requesting that a July 2020 recruitment be halted due to irregularities.
The petitioners accused Secretariat officials of, among other things, collecting payments from applicants, giving incorrect dates to some short-listed candidates, shredding applications, leaking interview questions, and changing marks to favour others.