By Taban Tom Henry
The Republic of South Sudan is for the first time hosting the East African Community 12th edition of the inter-parliamentary games under the theme “widening and deepening EAC integration by increasing visibility for its citizens through sports”.
The 12th inter-parliamentary games are hosted by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) of South Sudan.
The tournament that brings all parliamentarians of the EAC members states to engage in various sporting activities has kick started in Juba yesterday and will run from Friday 25th November to 2nd December 2022.
The sports disciplines include: football, volleyball, athletics, tug-of-war walk race, golf, basketball and darts.
The Joint Planning Committee (JPC) introduced a pre-tournament conference as part of the events that precede the actual sporting events.
Pre-tournament conference gives members of parliaments an opportunity to interact and bond ahead of the IPG and further equip them with information about the EAC integration process.
The regional parliamentary games saw the national parliaments from the member states and from the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) compete in different sports activities including football and volleyball. Athletics and many others.
The EAC member states involved in the competition include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda Burundi and the host South Sudan.
Last year, the EAC 11th edition of the inter-parliamentary games took place in Arusha Tanzania meanwhile the 10th edition of the tournament took place in Kampala Uganda in 2019 that was after Burundi hosted the 9th edition in Bujumbura.
Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, the Chairperson for the Joint Planning Committee and Inter-Parliamentary Games, Francina Rutazana said that the objective of the friendly tournament is to widen and deepen integration of EAC.
“We need to enhance the visibility of the East African Community for our citizens to know but most importantly seize opportunities and benefits towards their developments” she said.
The idea of the inter-parliamentary games was introduced in 2001 during the inauguration of the regional assembly in Arusha Tanzania. It started with only football match but in the following years it witnessed several bilateral games by EALA and the National Assemblies. The inclusion of other games came in 2009 in the fourth forum of speakers that agreed to have the inter-parliamentary games as an annual and rotational tournament.
Francina lamented that the elements of the games are not only games challenge but also interaction throughout the inter-parliamentary games. “We need to enhance integration, networking and social cohesion between legislators of the East African community,” he noted.
“For this 12th edition of the inter parliamentary games, we need to show to the people of the Republic of South Sudan that integration is real and together we shall do more for the social development of our region” she said.
Gideon Gatpan, Member of Parliament representing South Sudan in the East African Legislative Assembly revealed that the concept of this game was drawn from article 49 sub section 2A of the treaty for the establishment of the East African Community, which says the national assemblies to EALA should laisse in matters concerning the community.
“This tournament was muted in 2001 to promote regional diplomacy and sensitization of our citizens by members and staff of various parliaments across our region” he said.
For her part Rt. Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba, the Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Chair of the East African Speakers forum last Tuesday predicted that they were expecting to receive about 800 delegates from EALA saying she is proud to receive 876 members from the East African Legislative Assembly.
Speaker Nunu said they have 200 members from Uganda, 280 from Kenya, 46 members from Rwanda, Burundi with 70 members, Tanzania having180 and EALA with 100 legislators all camping in the capital Juba for the EAC inter-parliamentary games.
Following EALA meeting on 18-19 October 2021 in Arusha Tanzania, the JPC for EALA proposed the Republic of South Sudan to host this year’s 2022 12th edition of EAC parliamentary games which was endorsed by the bureau of speakers of the East Africa Community.
“The games provide for us the opportunity to know, learn and recognize each other’s problems and appreciate each other’s view points and achievements by bringing the regional parliamentarians together, therefore this tournament contributes to deepening integration within the East African Community in as much as it enables our politicians to appreciate how valuable we would be to each other in an increasingly integrated East Africa Community,” Nunu said.
The speaker congratulated the East African Community for their advancement in gender equality saying most speakers from the region are female starting from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan.