Tuesday 31 July, 2018
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
The East African Community is looking into the possibility of registering civil society organisations affiliated to the bloc to prevent partner states’ increasing attempts to gag them, a forum was told in Nairobi recently.
The EAC Secretary General, Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, said he would consult the community’s Legal Department to ascertain if registration of the CSOs at the bloc would enable them to operate more freely than under their partner states.
He commended some of the CSOs for vibrantly operating under existing regimes well before the EAC was revived, cautioning them, however, that being closely affiliated to the bloc could further risk their freedom and performance.
“Not all institutions of the private sector, CSOs and other interest groups will come to the structure of the EAC, for in so doing we’ll create a monster,” he warned, adding that the community had limited resources to attend to the needs of all issues and people it dealt with.
“You always bring out for the negatives and use very strong language. The message is very good, but you use very strong language, Ms Ronah Nandaula Serwadda, an official with Uganda’s Ministry of EAC Affairs.
“Development partners currently finance half of our programmes, we’re financially constrained,” he stressed during the 6th EAC Secretary General’s Forum held at Crowne Plaza in Nairobi recently to review the EAC Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF) and its impact on the integration process.
The forum is a culmination of the EAC Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF), which dates back to November 2012 when the EAC Council of Ministers adopted in Nairobi.
The overarching goal of the continuous national and regional dialogue process is to widen and deepen co-operation among partner states in political, economic, social, cultural, health, education, science, technology, defence, security, legal and judicial affairs.
Most of the representatives of the private sector, CSOs and other interest groups pointed an accusing finger at partner states for applying an iron fist against them during the forum, asking the community secretariat to consider using its mandate provided for in the EAC Treaty for registering their institutions.
Mr Ogwal Moses Goli, the director of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda chapter, said the Secretary General could register the institutions as stipulated in sections 1 to 7 of the law which provides for the creation of the forum.
Much as almost all institutions were registered as companies by guarantee, they could be closed at the whims of shareholders or persons responsible for registering them if they provoked their partner states.
“This forum is not a meeting place; it is the whole ecosystem meant for allowing these institutions to operate properly under the Treaty,” he insisted, hinting that the institutions were currently contending with work permits and taxes partner states deliberately imposed on them.
The inclusion of the private sector, civil society and other interest groups in the ambitious integration project is based on lessons learnt from the defunct EAC, whose collapse was partly attributed to the non-involvement of these key stakeholders and the wider citizenry of East Africa.
Dr Kirsten Focken, the Arusha-based Programme Manager of the Germany International Development Agency, GIZ, which has been financing the EAC Secretary General’s Forum since its inception, said the regional integration could only become a reality if citizens were aware, involved and owned the process.
“Address the current gaps in the CDF, review the stakeholder’s interests and mobilise resources for its implementation and sustainability,” she said.
The RDC is composed of members from the East African Business Council, East Africa Civil Society Organisations Forum, East African Law Society, East African Local Government Association, East African Employers Organisation, East Africa Youth Network, East Africa Trade Union Confederation and the East African Health Platform.
Themed Strategising for Impact: People-Centred and Market-Driven Integration, the main objectives of this year’s two-day forum was to evaluate the CDF projects and programmes, review the responsiveness of its existing structure and to assess the sustainability of the framework.
The adoption of the CDF was in line with Article 127 of the EAC Treaty, which calls for the integration process to be both people-centred and undertaken with the full participation of the people of East Africa.
Article 127(4) of the Treaty specifically says “the Secretary General shall provide the forum for consultations between the private sector, civil society organisations, other interest groups and appropriate institutions of the Community”.
Article 129 (2) requests the council to “establish modalities that would enable the business organisations or associations, professional bodies and the civil society in the partner states to contribute effectively to the development of the community”.