The Ugandan legislators boycotted the sittings and their counterparts from Burundi and S. Sudan followed, prompting the Speaker to suspend the house for three days for lack of quorum. South Sudan is now the biggest winner after the protest saw 11 out of the 60 vacant positions ring-fenced for the EAC's youngest nation.
Lumumba Obatre. EALA members say he unfairly lost race for Clerk. Photo by EAC
Uganda had gotten a reprieve in the fight for equity and fairness it says was nonexistent in the ongoing recruitment process at the East African Community Secretariat.
However, for now, the country's candidate for the top job of House Clerk has lost out in what the Ugandan representatives call a sham recruitment process.
A number of positions at lower, middle and top levels had over the years fallen vacant and during the tenure of office of Liberat Mfumkeko as Secretary General, hardly any recruitments took place, mainly due to lack of funds.
When he assumed office in April this year, Peter Mathuki, a Kenyan business executive put the filling of the vacant positions top on his agenda as SG, and moved ahead to fulfil this commitment.
In July, about 60 positions were advertised and later a shortlist was published according to the rules of staffing at the EAC.
Along the way, however, issues of unfairness in the process were raised. Uganda’s representatives cited the unequal distribution on the shortlist where on some positions advertised, there were no Ugandans shortlisted.
Specifically, the Ugandan legislators alleged that a national, Alex Obatre Lumumba had emerged as the best candidate for EALA Clerk with 24 points from the interview by the panels from all the countries, but that later, the Tanzanian panel cut these to 9.
This left Saidi Othman Yakubu, from Tanzania as the top scorer and Speaker Martin Ngoga, a Rwandan representative gave him the job.
This prompted protests by Ugandans who also pointed out that even in some other positions, there were no Ugandans shortlisted.
East African Community Affairs Minister Rebecca Kadaga petitioned the Secretary General against the alleged flaws, but Dr Mathuki told her it was too late.
She argued that it was wrong for the Secretary-General to take in his hands matters that should be handled by the Council of Ministers, warning that Uganda will never be forgotten in EAC processes.
The Ugandan legislators then walked out of the sittings and their counterparts from Burundi and S Sudan followed, prompting the Speaker to suspend the house for three days for lack of quorum.
The two countries also alleged unfairness in the process with almost very few of their citizens given chance for the jobs, yet some vacancies had the shortlisted candidates from one country.
Following the intervention of the Council of Ministers, at their 41st ordinary meeting, some areas of the process were reviewed to pave the way for the commencement of the process.
The Council meeting also said that some requirements in the adverts were too restrictive leading to some to have only one candidate.
These, the ministers said, should be reviewed so that as many candidates as possible apply for the jobs.
The Chairman of the Council, Adan Muhamed from Kenya said three positions for which no Ugandan was short-listed; the Hansard Editor, the Hansard Reporter, and the Senior Clerk Assistant would be re-advertised in Uganda.
“There were errors in the adverts of for the three positions that excluded candidates from the Republic of Uganda and the Council recommended that the Secretariat re-advertise the positions,” he said.
Muhamed also said the positions for which the short-listed candidates were from one country, and those for which only one candidate was shortlisted, were also to be re-advertised.
This is aimed at making the process as open and competitive as possible Mohamed said that shortlisted applicants would soon receive invitations from the Secretariat to participate in the interviews, insisting that the process has largely followed the rules.
He added that the secretariat had been directed to ring-fence at least 11 positions for South Sudan out of the 15 that are yet to be advertised, as an affirmative action for the benefit of the youngest nation.
Ugandan legislator Denis Namara had, before the walkout, warned that the way the recruitment process was being handled threatened to create divisions in the community and could lead to its disintegration as was the case in the mid-1970s.
For those already concluded, like the controversially handled Clerk to Parliament, Mohamed said there would be no changes.
“The interviews for those positions were done and have been concluded they are just awaiting appointments by the council," he said. "We have decided to delay that appointment pending the outcome of the bigger recruitment.”