Inside Story: The Rise and Fall of EALA Speaker Margaret Zziwa


order geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>Dora Byamukama, who had lost the race for EALA speaker to Margaret Zziwa, shocked the House when she threw away a bouquet of flowers from the latter.

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Zziwa had just given a speech and by handing flowers to Byamukama, she apparently intended to show her fond respect to her rival.

However, tempers flared with Byamukama attacking then EAC Affairs Minister the late Eriya Kategaya for siding with Zziwa. Kategaya denied favouring any candidate.

It is thought the NRM caucus had earlier agreed to front Byamukama only for Zziwa to stick to her guns thus successfully challenging the former for the speakership.

At the time, it was widely thought that Byamukama was a bad loser. Zziwa would later hold a rally in Kampala to celebrate her victory.

Many lawmakers had hopes that Zziwa would take EALA a step higher; that she would contribute to efforts aimed at uniting the region as a single economic and political bloc.

However, this never happened. Many are now regretting Zziwa’s leadership, arguing Byamukama would have performed better as Speaker.

Zziwa is now being accused of nepotism, arrogance, abuse of resources and unbecoming conduct which lawmakers at EALA say should lead to her impeachment.

The beginning of the end of Zziwa’s tenure as EALA speaker

At least four MPs from each of the countries that form EALA on March 26 signed and served a notice to the clerk “for purposes of introducing a motion for the resolution to remove the Speaker from office.”

Article 53(3) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC provides that the Speaker of the Assembly may be removed from office by a resolution supported by not less than two thirds majority of the elected members for inability to perform the functions of his or her office, whether arising from infirmity of mind, body or for misconduct.

The motion to remove a Speaker from office must be signed by at least four elected MPs from each partner state and submitted to the clerk, who within 24 hours of receipt of the list of names, forward the notice to the House.

The motion is tabled within one week of its receipt by the clerk before being referred to Committee on Legal, rules and Privileges to investigate and report its findings to the Assembly for debate.

The Speaker is entitled to appear in person and to be assisted or represented by a lawyer or any other person when the Committee is investigating his or her removal.

According to the rules, Zziwa will not preside over any EALA business sessions since proceedings for her removal have already commenced.

After that, should the Assembly pass the motion for the removal of the Speaker by not less than two-thirds of elected members of the Assembly, the speaker “shall cease to hold office.”

Why MPs want Zziwa out

The motion contends Zziwa is unable to perform the functions for her office arising from misconduct, poor governance and leadership skills; abuse of office; disrespect and intimidation of members and staff; and loss of confidence and trust by members and staff; and loss of confidence and trust by Members.

She is accused of unilateral decision making; abuse of the consensus principle required in decision making of the commission.

The MPs cite the example of the mishandling of the Assembly’s established policy and practice of rotational sittings in Partner States whereby the Speaker’s unilateral decision was so unpopular to the extent that it paralysed the work of the Assembly.

The decision to stop the rotational sittings was announced in Kigali prior to any consultation.

Zziwa is also faulted for poor time management and laissez-faire attitude to Assembly responsibilities. The petition avers this conduct causes delays and postponement of meetings.

“For example, the Kigali meeting on the strategic Plan and the meeting for the Commission and Committee Chairs that preceded the Capacity building workshop which was held in Mombasa, 2013. On these two occasions, the Speaker went to a different mission without notifying the members. As a result, Members spent a whole day at the venue, no Member was tasked to deputise and this led to loss of resources,” the notice, which Chimpreports has seen, reads in part.

Observers say chances of Zziwa’s survival are minimal, given the spirit and determination of legislators to kick her out office.

Majority of Ugandan MPs have already signed the notice to overthrow her, a move that could deal a great blow to Uganda’s foreign interests.

It is not guaranteed that Zziwa’s exit will lead to the entry of a Ugandan legislator as EALA’s speaker.

Sources in the corridors of power say President Museveni could intervene to protect Uganda’s interests in EALA.

More reasons for Zziwa’s impeachment

The notice further notes that whereas the Speaker is paid a housing allowance that enables her to reside in Arusha in order to supervise the work of the Assembly; the Speaker hardly stays in Arusha.

Zziwa is also blamed for unilaterally involving members of her family in services of the Assembly such as irregular hiring of staff without consulting the Commission and bringing family members to play in the inter-parliamentary EAC netball games, where these family members were favoured by the Speaker above the EALA Members staff.

Regarding family interventions in the Assembly affairs, MPs said the Speaker’s husband, whose interventions were in some distances disruptive, disrespectful and posed veiled threats to Members.

Another reason why MPs want to overthrow Zziwa is the alleged misallocation of resources earmarked for the Assembly Plenary to other matters where she has personal interest.

“For example the hosting of the meeting for Global Parliamentarians for Habitat where she is an African Chapter Chairperson which utilised days programmed for Assembly activities.”

The Speaker is also accused of changing the calendar for 20123/14 in order to accommodate her attendance of the IPU where EALA is just an observer. In such instances, the MPs argue, attendance of the IPU could have been delegated to any other member.

It is alleged Zziwa practices nepotism where the Speaker consistently favours some members of the Assembly especially in the allocation of foreign missions.

“Haphazardly nominating members to represent the assembly in different fora without lay down criteria which loophole allows her to favour some members over others,” the notice further reads.


Officials further accuse Zziwa of disrespect and intimidation of staff and using the media to slander and character assassinate members.

It is reported at one time in January 2014, Zziwa banged the table in a meeting of Chairpersons of Chapters, during the plenary held in Kampala when they went to advise her on a number of issues for the smooth running of the Assembly.

As this meeting she told the Chapter chairs that “if you elected me, you can dis-elect me”. In this instance, the chairpersons felt that the speaker used offensive language. It was felt that this action was abusive, objectionable and portrayed aggressive behaviour, arrogance, disrespect and intimidation.

Recently, she was also heard referring to Members as “adolescents” in terms of behaviour in presence of the Chair of Summit and Council Ministers.

Holding of acrimonious staff meetings where abusive language, accusations, threats and intimidation were issued to the staff is another reason MPs insist Zziwa must go.

Other facts include refusal to take advice and inability to appreciate positive critics intended to improve the work of the Assembly; dishonesty, slander and intrigue thus creating an atmosphere of mistrust and perpetual disharmony in the Assembly.

“Loss of confidence and trust by members in the Speaker is evidenced by walkout of the Assembly on two occasions on the issue of rotation; the number of signatures appended to the motion to remove the Speaker.”

The possible impeachment of Zziwa will be the first in the history of EALA. The allegations against Zziwa raise fresh questions about the etiquette of Ugandan politicians in handling international obligations.


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