The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: Experts Caution Region on Protocol Implementation

East African Community (EAC) Partner States cannot achieve a political federation unless they fully implement the already existing protocols, experts have warned.

The protocols yet to be executed include the Common Market that was signed in 2009 and Customs Union signed in 2004 and came into force in 2005.

Speaking at the just concluded meeting in Arusha on an EAC dialogue on political federation, Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala from the University of Pretoria, noted that federation cannot be achieved without triumphing in economic aspects that would be obtained after executing the protocols.

"Economic integration is the foundation for political integration, which in turn assists in the consolidation of economic integration, as such, the two complement each other," he said.

He further advised that for the community to effectively achieve the federation, member states should move from cooperating under inter-governmental level to the supra-national level.

Khadiagala cited inadequate dialogue on the hurdles, and lingering mistrust about economic gains; among the challenges to EAC integration.

Prof. Sam Tulya-Muhika from Makerere University during the same meeting said that it was imperative to eliminate all trade barriers in the region for the federation to succeed.

The meeting attracted members of the civil society, academics, political scientists and government officials from the EAC member states.

"Economic management is a primary function of the state and hence good economics is the best politics...political integration is key for successful economic integration," Muhika said.

It was agreed in the meeting that there was need to sensitise the people on the challenges, opportunities and added value of integration, but most importantly, the cost of not integrating.

In an interview with Prof. Anastase Shyaka, one of the Rwandan negotiators on political federation, said that the bloc should be people-centred.

"We need to make coherence where we capitalise on ensuring the people-centred community and all these fears may be allayed gradually with the implementation of the protocols for the benefit of the community," he said.

"We must embark on making the community citizenship, where a Kenyan feels at home when in Kigali or where a Rwandan feels secure in Kampala without fearing that he is considered a foreigner. That is when we shall effectively achieve the political federation."

However, EAC citizens are still keenly monitored and normally regarded as strangers when they travel to member states, especially at cross borders, where passengers are critically scrutinised, something that observers say doesn't happen in advanced economic communities like the European Union.

"Regional geo-political alliance has not yet matured and it's because the campaign for political federation has not yet internalised as political leaders have not yet given it attention. We need to be one to ensure that when pirates attack Kenya we are all concerned as a region instead of leaving it to Kenyans," Shyaka noted.

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