19 April 2018

East Africa: EALA Briefed on Progress of Regional Defence Pact

The challenges faced during negotiations of the East African Community (EAC) Mutual Defence Pact have all been addressed, the regional parliament heard Wednesday.

The Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), who are in session in the Tanzanian capital Dodoma, were briefed on the deal by the chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, Julius Maganda.

Maganda is also Uganda's state minister for EAC Affairs.

Addressing the MPs, Maganda said the minor challenges, which included taking care of partner states' interests, partner states being signatories to more than one mutual defence pact and the conformity to domestic constitutions, have all been ironed out.

The minister's remarks came after MP Pierre-Célestin Rwigema (Rwanda) posed a question to the Council of Ministers requesting the latter to inform the House about challenges that partner states face in negotiating a mutual defence pact.

When asked to clarify which countries belong to multiple mutual defence pacts, the minister pointed to the case where, for example, Rwanda and Burundi are members of the 12-member grouping of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) while Tanzania belongs to the SADC.

The pact is in line with the implementation of the EAC protocol on cooperation in defence affairs which came into force in November 2015.

As part of the protocol, countries were supposed to negotiate and include a mutual defence pact within one year.

The minister acknowledged the delay as the mutual defence pact ought to have been in operation by end 2016.

He explained that "by its very nature it is complex" and thus required ample time to consult and come out with an agreeable and comprehensive pact.

Rwigema also wanted the Council to inform the Assembly on the main challenges that led to delays in ratifying protocols and associated mechanisms under the bloc's peace, security and foreign policy, yet the EAC is implementing the protocol on cooperation in defence affairs.

On this, the minister said that the "protracted ratification process which is a requirement" under some national laws contributed to the delay.

"However, as of now, all partner states with the exception of Burundi have ratified the protocol on peace and security.

"We expect all ratifications to be concluded in the course of this year to allow the protocol to come into force".

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