21 May 2016

East Africa: New EAC Boss Takes Office Breathing Fire

Newly-appointed East African Community (EAC)Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko took over office late last month, amid a financial crisis dogging the regional organization.

He warned of impending stringent measures to salvage the regional organization from the current financial crisis.

He said his administration will propose 'stern measures' geared at cost-cutting, value for money, accountability and transparency and that it will not be business as usual as the regional organization has to cope with unprecedented deficits in its budget.

"Although we have experienced situations of financial instability on regular basis, we never sunk into a deep crisis because our leaders in partner states have always reacted in time", he said during a welcoming party by the staff members of the Community.

He stated that the EAC was currently going through challenging financial times and that forecasts for the month of June this year show a deficit of more than $ 11 million.

The situation has been aggravated by failure by development partners, who account for close to 70 per cent of the annual budget, to disburse about 30 per cent of the expected funds two months before the end of the 2015/2016 fiscal year on June 30th.

Mr.Mfumukeko,a Burundi national, assumed the highest office at EAC and succeeded Dr. Richard Sezibera from Rwanda whose five year, non-renewable term ended on last month. Both countries were admitted into the bloc in July 2007 after enjoying a status of observers to the Community from the late 1990s.

He was appointed the fifth secretary general of the Community during the 17th Heads of State Summit held on March 2nd at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge outside Arusha. He becomes not only the first Burundi national to hold the post but the first of the 10-plus deputy secretaries general the current EAC has had to be elevated to the secretary general.

He had served as the deputy secretary general in charge of Finance and Administration from February 20th last year. Under the EAC Treaty, each member state should have a deputy secretary general in top executives' line up at the secretariat except the partner state which produces the secretary general.

Mr. Mfumukeko, visibly appeared a no-nonsense executive as he talked the staff members he would be leading for the next five years, emphasizing the major task to redeem the image of the regional organization, now facing several challenges.

"We have an obligation to improve ourselves before, eventually we suffer the side effects of our inability to change.

"I have no doubt that we will take the bull by its horns and take tough choices. Remember choices have consequences".

The incoming secretary general noted that although work on sustainable financing of the EAC, through lessening dependence on donors, among other things, was in advanced stage, the financial situation of the Community was still fragile.

"During my five years of tenure, we will work very hard", he said, noting that he would enhance and strengthen the capacity of the SG's office to effectively serve the Community and that he would shortly spell out his priorities.

He remarked that it was pity that the EAC has signed many protocols which have not been fully implemented. He called for the fast-tracking the integration of South Sudan into the activities, programmes and projects of the EAC. South Sudan was on March 2nd admitted as the sixth member of the bloc.

The former SG Dr. Sezibera said the crisis in Burundi and terrorist attacks in Kenya were the main challenges he faced during his tenure as EAC secretary general.

He added that the problems he faced also included pressure for financial autonomy to the Eala which was finally granted. He said the financial problems facing the Community may be reduced significantly through installation of video-conference facilities.

Mr. Mfumukeko becomes the fifth EAC secretary general after Dr. Sezibera (2011-2016), Ambassador Juma Mwapachu from Tanzania (2006-2011), Nuwe Amanya Mushega - Uganda (2001-2006) and Ambassador Francis Muthaura from Kenya who served as the first SG of the revived Community from 1996 to 2001.

The SG is the principal executive officer of the Community, the head of the Secretariat and the Secretary of the Summit of the Heads of State, the principal organ of the Community.

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