1 January 2013

East Africa: New Year Holds Promise for Unfulfilled Plans in EAC Integration Process

THE year 2012 had several activities and events for the East African Community (EAC), a regional grouping of over 130 million people.

On a positive note, 2012 will remain memorable for the EAC as the year the regional bloc moved to its own headquarters.

The new complex covers a total built up area of 15,025 square meters, made up of three wings of four storeys each.

The construction project was officially commissioned by the EAC Heads of State on 20 November 2009, although actual construction work began on 28 January 2010. The project was fully funded by the Federal Republic of Germany to the tune of 14.8 million euros.

EALA elects new Speaker

Away from the EAC getting a new home, the regional bloc also got a new East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Speaker, after a rigorous election exercise that pitted two Ugandan legislators; Dora Byamukama and Margret Zziwa Nantongo.

Zziwa, who was shortly after elections sworn in by Kenneth Madete clerk of the Assembly, obtained 33 votes in the second round of voting.

Byamukama, 40, got 12 votes in the second round, down from 18 votes she got in the first round. Forty five MPs from the five EAC member countries voted.

The Ugandan legislator succeeded Kenya's Abdulahin H. Abdi who had headed the Assembly for the last five years, having taken over from Abdulrahman Kinana from Tanzania.

The elections were a Ugandan affair after the Burundi candidate pulled out leaving Zziwa and Byamukama to tussle it out. According to the Rules of Procedure (rule 7) of the Assembly on election of Speaker, the members directly elect the speaker by secret ballot from among themselves on rotational basis.

Arusha-Namanga-Athi River Road commissioned

As part of the many envisaged regional projects, the Heads of State of the EAC Partner States in November 2012 commissioned the rehabilitated Arusha-Namanga-Athi River Road in Athi River town in Kenya.

South Sudan, Somalia applications deferred

The year 2012 was characterised by postponements in EAC integration process.

The monetary union was postponed to November 2013.

And then hopes for South Sudan and Somalia to join the regional bloc dashed after the Heads of State for the second time deferred their decision on the two countries' applications.

In April 2012, regional leaders meeting in Bujumbura [Burundi] deferred their decision on the country's application to November.

The Heads of State while meeting in Nairobi in November 2012 directed the Council of Ministers to conduct more negotiations with South Sudan, while taking into consideration the findings in the verification committee's report.

South Sudan applied to join the EAC only months after it seceded from Sudan, in 2011, while Somalia had submitted its application in February 2012.

The overall objective of the verification exercise was to establish South Sudan's level of conformity with the criteria for admission into the EAC as provided under article 3 of the EAC Treaty.

The regional Presidents directed the Council to engage the Federal Republic of Somalia and undertake a verification process of the application and report at the next summit of EAC Heads of State.

Rwanda unveils national policy on the integration process

2012 also saw Rwanda under the Ministry in charge of East African Community affairs unveil the national policy on the integration process that will enable it pursue her interests in the region.

The new policy focuses on different five key strategic areas, including mainstreaming regional integration into Rwanda's development, engaging EAC institutions, mitigation and safeguard measures that will focus on reducing negative implications of the integration process for Rwanda.

The policy enables follow-up on EAC decisions and obligations, and institutional framework that will coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of EAC commitments in Rwanda.

Rwanda became the first country to initiate such a strategy among all partners in the region.

EAC affairs Minister Monique Mukaruliza explained that the region continues to encounter implementation challenges, observing that it was imperative for such plans to be initiated.

"We have been facing hindrances in implementation of protocols and to address such challenges we needed a coordinating framework to guide us in the process hence coming up with the policy," she said.

Elimination of Non Tariff Barriers

The community witnessed the introduction of Transport Observatory Project that was established to monitor the movement of trucks carrying cargos within the region using electronic devices to detect the causes of delays on the corridor.

Launched in Mombasa, the progamme is being funded by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and is spearheaded by Transit Transport Coordination Authority (TTCA) of the Northern Corridor (TTCA) and Kenya Transport Association.

Under the project, trucks are equipped with Global Positioning system (GPS) devices which monitor how many times a truck is stopped on the way.

With this system, drivers are also given the forms where they write the reasons why they are stopped.

Appointment of EAC Deputy Secretary General - Jessica Eriyo

Uganda's Eriyo replaced Beatrice Kiraso formerly EAC Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation), whose two-year mandate had expired.

Her appointment was confirmed at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Heads of State at Arusha in Tanzania on 28th April 2012.

Eriyo is Uganda's former State Minister for Environment.

Also during the 10th Extraordinary Heads of state summit, the contract of Jean Claude Nsengiyumva (Deputy Secretary General - Productive and Social Sectors) contract was renewed.

EAC Youth Ambassadors

It is also in 2012 that the EAC with the support of the EAC Nyerere Centre for Peace Research (NCPR) and Germany Development Cooperation (GIZ) initiated the concept of EAC Youth Ambassadors.

The five EAC Youth Ambassadors (picked from each of the five EAC partner states) were nominated after they emerged as best debaters during the 1st EAC University Students Debate on Regional Integration.

The main objective of the Debate, which is mooted to be an annual event, is to promote continuous dialogue among the youth and interest them in advocating regional integration initiatives.

In addition, the Debate is expected to provide a platform for the youth to participate in and contribute to policy formulation on issues that constitute the EAC youth agenda.

Museveni assumes Chairmanship of EAC

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in December took over the Chairmanship of the regional body for the next 1 year; during the 14th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State and Government that took place in Nairobi.

During the summit, the EAC leaders also witnessed the signing of the letter of intent of promoting trade relations between the EAC and the Government of the United States of America.

President Museveni commended his Kenyan counterpart, President Mwai Kibaki, for shepherding the regional bloc for the past one year.

President Kibaki, noted that among the achievements of the East African Community was the establishment of the Customs Union and the Common Market.

Still at the Heads of State Summit in Nairobi, the Presidents approved the different protocols including the EAC protocol on peace and security, protocol on information, communications and technology networks.

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