18 February 2018

East Africa: We Need Goodwill From EAC Leaders for Meaningful Integration

opinion

Expulsion of Ugandans by the Tanzanian government is not something new; it happens almost every year. But I have never seen the Ugandan government react until when herdsmen were expelled.

The Foreign Affairs minister wrote a letter of protest and handed it over to the ambassador of Tanzania to Uganda.

Being a shadow minister for East African Community Affairs, I don't think that this higgledy-piggledy scenario would be happening between member states under the East African Community, if the heads of states of member countries were transparently committed to the integration.

It is important to recollect that on November 30, 1993, the heads of states of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania signed a permanent tripartite commission (PTC) which arrangement later ushered in the signing of the East African Community Treaty on January 22, 1999 by the three states.

The integration process has been progressing in four steps embodied in protocols: I will only mention the two which have been birthed.

First is the Customs Union Protocol, which came into effect in 2005; this allows East Africa to operate as a free trade area where partner states reduce or eliminate tax on goods originating from their countries and have a common tariff on goods imported from outside the participating countries.

Secondly, there is the Common Market Protocol, which came into effect on July 1, 2010. This provides the region with a single economic space within which business and labour will operate to stimulate investment. The common market serves to provide freedom of movement of the factors of production (Capital and Labour) and goods and services and also the right of establishment of residence.

Pointing to protocol No 2 of the East African Community integration process, it is wrong for Tanzania to expel natives of other member countries who are mandated to do business, work and also stay anywhere within the boundaries of East Africa.

However, the biggest challenge before us is that the ministry of East African Community Affairs is headed by second prime minister, Kirunda Kivejinja, who, by his age, is only fit to be ceremonial. I want to think that for the same reason, President Museveni donated this ministry to him as a retirement package.

I can provide evidence to corroborate my assertion. This ministry is understaffed, with staffing level of 40 per cent (31 of 77 filled), meaning they have a staffing gap is 60 per cent (46 of 77 unfilled).

When you are looking for a severely underfunded ministry in Uganda with at least 50 per cent of its budget paying arrears, you can't fail to mention ministry of East African Community Affairs. With this haphazard arrangement in the ministry, I don't think much can be yielded in regard to engaging other member states in situations likened to this in kind and intensity.

This also speaks volumes about the president's commitment to the integration. Unfortunate! When you are searching for virtual junior ministers, kindly find one in this particular ministry.

My honorable colleague, Julius Maganda, who doubles as the state minister for East African Community Affairs, is for sure occupying a portfolio that is without enough funding to aid the execution of the duties thereof. I think his resignation can be patriotic!

Surprisingly, as all this happens to Ugandans, the committee of parliament on East African Community Affairs has not prioritized discussing the matter. But you can't blame them also. Their inactivity just explains how passive this ministry is. In my view, therefore, this ministry is counterproductive and must be dissolved as early as yesterday.

You cannot sow maize and reap bananas! Let us empower this ministry to the capacity of handling matters that fall under its docket.

As of now, I want to believe that our only hope must be vested in the East African Legislative Assembly, but this also possesses a semblance of toothless dogs that bark but can't bite.

I think that tranquility among EAC member states can be attained but with utmost goodwill of the sitting presidents. And this must be made mandatory, short of that, our ardor for integration will remain an adoration in our hearts and a myth in reality. This failed endeavor will midwife more sordid events.

The author is a member of parliament for Mityana Municipality and shadow minister for East African Community Affairs.

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