The East African Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the former Speaker of the East Africa Legislative Assembly Margaret Nantongo Zziwa in a case that challenged her removal from office in 2014.
The court sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, ruled that that Zziwa be awarded costs amounting to 140,000 US dollars, which is approximately 549 million Uganda shillings with six percent interest and the legal costs inclusive.
The Court says that all the activities and laws passed during Zziwa’s absence as the speaker are void in law.
Zziwa was censored in December 2014 by EALA MPs for alleged misconduct, abuse of office and disrespect to fellow members.
How Ziwa was impeached
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 wanted Zziwa out
The motion contended that Zziwa was 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 was also accused of unilateral decision making; abuse of the consensus principle required in decision making of the commission for example 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 among others.
Why Ziwa refused to resign
The Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), Ms Margaret Zziwa, refused to yield to the pressure from her critics to resign from her job.
Zziwa said she is not holding the post in her interest but that of Uganda which seconded her.
“I was not a speaker because I am Margaret Zziwa but a person representing Uganda in the process of integration. This is Uganda’s chance to shine,” she added.
Ms Zziwa said she launched several ways of resolving the grievances of individual members that at one time threatened to cause an impasse at the regional parliament but all was sabotaged by individuals who were interested in only seeing her out of office at all costs.
Right from her election, Ms Zziwa had a tumultuous reign till when she was forced out office something that she contested in the courts of law just climaxed with her triumph.