East Africa: EAC Set to Get New Secretary General

23 February 2021

Expectations are high ahead of the East African Community Heads of State Summit scheduled for February 27, when leaders will make a decision on the new Secretary General of the regional body.

The EAC SG runs daily affairs of the bloc's Secretariat, the executive organ of the community.

The Secretary General is the principal executive and accounting officer of the Community as well as the Secretary of the Summit.

The nominee for the top executive job will replace Liberat Mfumukeko, the Burundian national who has held the position for the past five years.

Mfumukeko assumed the office in 2016 replacing Rwanda's Dr. Richard Sezibera.

The position of SG is held on a rotational basis and this is expected to be Kenya's turn, meaning that according to protocol, President Uhuru Kenyatta would present the Kenyan candidate for the job for approval by the summit.

However, Manasseh Nshuti, Minister of State in charge of EAC affairs told The New Times on Tuesday that they have received an application by South Sudan.

"It will now be up to the Heads of State to decide," said Nshuti.

South Sudan is the latest entrant into the regional body of six regional countries.

Big task awaiting new Secretary General

Speaking to The New Times, MP Aden Omar Abdikadir, a Kenyan member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) said that "the new SG will have a big task ahead."

Besides allegations of corruption scandals, Mfumukeko's tenure was often characterised by friction with other organs of the regional bloc including the regional Assembly, and the Council of Ministers, the Policy-making organ of the community.

It is for this reason that Abdikadir believes whoever comes in now "will inherit an organisation that is functionally on its knees," considering low staff morale, conflict between organs and a community which is financially broke.

Abdikadir said that there is also a lot of mistrust between partner states because of the lack of a strong community organ to coordinate their cooperation.

"The new SG needs to move with speed to build trust and relationships between organs of the community and between partner states," Abdikadir noted.

"He or she will also need to bring in charisma and a good working relationship with employees of the community. He has to build the motivation of the team and rejuvenate the community."

Considering recent past developments at the bloc's Secretariat, Nshuti also noted that "we can do better."

"We need a person who can coordinate the EAC institutions and organs better to make sure they are serving the purpose they are there for and deliver for the people of east Africa."

Managing Covid-19 constraints to regional trade

Regional officials have started meetings to consider various reports as well as a proposed agenda programme for the Summit.

Nshuti told The New Times that the Covid-19 pandemic situation which has constrained regional countries in various ways "and created what I can call non-tariff barriers (NTBs)" will certainly be at the center stage when the leaders meet on Saturday.

Nshuti said: "Definitely focus will be on how we manage this pandemic as life, and business, has to go on within these constraints. Heads of State will make pertinent decisions."

A statement by the EAC Secretariat indicates that initial virtual sessions are underway with the session of senior officials ending today, Tuesday, February 23.

The session of the Coordination Committee (Permanent Secretaries) is set for Wednesday while the Ministerial Session will take place on Thursday.

Among the items on the agenda are the consideration of various reports including those on: the implementation of previous decisions of the Council; Office of the Secretary General; as well as planning and infrastructure.

Other matters to be considered are: political matters; customs and trade; finance and administration matters; as well as reports of other EAC organs.

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