Bill Passed In House
February 3, 2012 -- The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the legislative organ of the East African Community (EAC), passed the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2011 in the House. If the EAC Heads of State assent to the bill, it will become an Act of the Community.
Amendments that sailed through during the debate include a change in title with the replacement of the word polythene with plastic to read “The East African Community Plastic Control Bill”. Members agreed that "plastic" has a wider scope and is consequential.
The EAC is a regional intergovernmental organization of five eastern Africa countries. The EAC is comprised of the Republics of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and has its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
Polythene is the polymer commonly known as "polyethylene", the most widely used plastic and primarily used in packaging (plastic bags, plastic films).(1)
Although the Act applies to all types of polythene materials, it specifically targets plastic bags, stating: "For the avoidance of any doubt, the elimination of the polythene bags shall be complete in all Partner States within one year from the coming into force of this Act."
The Bill, moved by Hon Patricia Hajabakiga, Member from Rwanda, aims at providing a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment by prohibiting the use, sale, manufacture and importation of polythene in all the East African Community Partner States.
The Act mandates that the Partner States shall, upon the coming into force of this Act, take such measures as may be necessary to eliminate polythene materials prohibited under this Act in their territories.
Dangers of Plastic
Justifying the move to have the regional law in place, Hon Hajabakiga stated that the Bill is intended to control the use of polythenes while advocating for the total ban of plastics.
The mover notes several dangers of plastics and polythene materials, notably soil degradation through burning of wastes, harmful emissions of toxics and the endangering of human and animal lives. She further indicates that while plastics can be burned, they emit chemicals and the corresponding photo-degradation has consequential impact on human and infrastructure.
"Countries such as Bangladesh, Botswana, Israel, Rwanda and France among others have since enacted a similar law", Hon Hajabakiga said.
Waiting for Assent
The Bill shall now go through the succeeding stages of assent with the Speaker of the Assembly expected to submit the amended /Assent copies to the Heads of State for assent. Should it be assented (signed) to by the five Heads of State, then it shall become law. In event that one or some (or all) Heads of State do not assent to the Bill then it shall be returned to the Assembly.
(2) East African Community
Cover Photo: Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, at the 8th East African Community summit held in November 2006. Credit: Wikipedia.org