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EAC integration process at pivotal point

By KALIIJA JAMES KATS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: The June 25 trilateral meeting of East African Heads of State was the most important development since the talk on the regional integration started.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: The writer is a farmer and freelance Ambassador on EAC Integration Structures and Processes.

I first attended a gathering about East African integration in 2007, during a consultative workshop in Kyenjojo about fast-tracking the East African Community (EAC) Political Federation. Though I was supportive of the initiative, the team presentations led by Hon. Kabakumba Matsiko looked more abstract and limited in content for the lay woman to understand.

After establishing contacts with likeminded people in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, we organized in September 2012 a study tour of the EAC Secretariat in Arusha with a delegation of 27 self-motivated young East Africans. Though our primary objective was to meet the East African Legislative Assembly Speaker and EAC Secretary General, this could not materialize due to the failure to secure appointment through the Uganda Ministry of EAC Affairs, having queried our legitimacy (a key non-tariff barrier never talked about).

As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will there is a way”, contacts with the EAC Secretariat were finally secured, but appointments could not be secured due to limited time; the Speaker was busy with the EALA Sessions in Nairobi and the Secretary General was on official business in Canada. We did not lose it all, however. The team met the staff of the East African Court of Justice, the Public Relations Officer of the EAC and the East African Business Council Staff where insightful reflections were made.

Though we drained our pockets to fund our study tour, none of us has ever regretted. The tour yielded untold dividends; first we noted that the East African integration process started as early as the history of mankind and not with the heads of partner states who tend to personalize and many a time limit the process.

The East African integration is primarily about harmonies living among the people of East Africa and business with the private sector as the key driver. From this context, the June 25, 2013 trilateral meeting between Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was the most important development since the talk on the regional integration started.

The trilateral meeting was spot on; it came up with clear actions with specifics and assignments to three Heads of State that will create a platform for public scrutiny over the next two years to start with. As the EAC Motto reads, “One People, One Destiny”, the long awaited railway line will connect key production canters across the region, the EAC Identity Card will ease cross border movements and energy generation will cut production costs for increased regional competiveness. I am quite optimistic that the involvement of Rwanda particularly in the ID project and Kenya in the energy generation will to a great extent ensure value for money and relieve East Africans of shoddy work.

The meeting was a good gesture towards practical partnership to stimulate business in the region, though it ignored the issue of Pre-export Verification of Conformity to Standards. I think the next trilateral meeting will be held in Rwanda to assign practical roles to end the arms race in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a potential beneficiary of the railway and the oil pipelines which were pivotal in the June 25 Entebbe Meeting.

 

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