25 January 2012

East Africa: Museveni Wants South Sudan, DRC in EAC

President Museveni yesterday asked the East African partner states to speed up the political integration process so as to accelerate prosperity in the region.

The President was opening the Third Meeting of the Fifth Session of the Second Assembly of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in Kampala.

"The EAC was once a mere egg but has now grown into a cock," Mr Museveni said. "(Daniel arap Moi) and myself in 1993 revived the community after it collapsed in 1977. We were fulfilling our historical role of re-assembling the community after the Europeans disassembled the ancient trade area."

He also lobbied for the inclusion of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan in the community.

"Re-assembling the ancient trade area is not complete without bringing in South Sudan and DR Congo," Mr Museveni said. "I want to welcome Rwanda and Burundi to the community because it's where they belong, they are part of it."

However, half-way into his speech, the President was momentarily embarrassed after it emerged that his staff had mixed his figures on regional trade. He had wanted to justify the fiscal benefit of federation but was let down by the mix-up. "These people have mixed up my figures. I have to sort out these figures," the President said.

The President told EALA that with a population of 134 million, there is an adequate regional market for the goods produced within the Community.

"Political federation in addition to economic integration is an investment destination and enhances our negotiation club and pools a bigger market," Mr Museveni said.

Rejecting African unity

"We rejected a united Africa because we are different, we are not similar. How will I merge with the Egyptians? This will bring us problems. But in East Africa we are Bantu-speaking people, we all speak Swahili and a political federation is a faster root for integration."

He added: "A political federation cures disequilibrium by transforming the inequalities in some countries into economic opportunities. Political federation is the most rational and the most equitable form of integration. This will ensure development in East Africa."

When asked by reporters whether he was opportunistically fighting for federation to become the first president, President Museveni said: "The issue is not who is the first President of EAC, the issue is that we should have better opportunities in a bigger trading bloc."

Analysts have stressed that economic integration disproportionately favours Kenya, while a political federation would favour the Ugandan President, who is East Africa's longest-serving president.

Uganda has, however, been labelled the "odd man out" because it is the only country in the Community without presidential term limits.

When asked by Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo how Uganda would fit into the federation, President Museveni told the NRM parliamentary caucus last week that he would convince other members to scrap term limits in their respective constitutions. If they object, then term limits will be reinstated in Uganda's Constitution, the President said.

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