East African teachers’ shadow missing in bloc

This is despite applying for EAC observer status in 2013


Flags of six East African Community partner states, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

SUNDAY July 28, 2019

By Tranquility News Correspondent, Arusha

The Federation of East African Teachers Union’s (Featu) bid to secure an observer status at the East African Community (EAC) has hit a snag, it has been learnt.

In 2013, Featu had applied for the observer status, but the EAC Secretariat has not responded to the union yet on the fate of its request, Mr Anthony Mtavangu, the union coordinator, lamented during the union’s annual general meeting in Arusha recently.

An observer may be requested to make a statement on a matter of particular concern to the organisation during a meeting of the EAC organ or institution, but does not have the right to vote.

Mr Anthony Githinji from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, Kenya, had asked Mr Mtavangu on the progress of the Featu application for the observer status at the bloc during the AGM.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (Right) hands over chairmanship of the East African Community Heads of State Summit to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda early this year. PHOTOS | AGENCIES

Mr Mtavangu said the EAC Secretariat’s registry showed the application was received in January 2014, but the Secretary General, Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, submitted it to the Council of Ministers in November last year.

“The council of ministers returned it to the sectoral council responsible for education, saying it lacked its opinions,” Mr Mtavangu explained.

The sectoral council though met last month, the union is not yet updated on its opinions, as an EAC official responsible for giving the feedback was on an official trip abroad, he added.

The observer status aims at enhancing inclusive and meaningful participation of foreign countries, inter-governmental organisations and non-state actors in official decision making organs and institutions of the bloc.

A teacher displays a poster during a strike in Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO | CTIZEN DIGITAL

The East African Business Council (EABC) and the East African Civil Society Organisations Forum have successfully been granted the status. The EABC is, however, pushing for more voice in the bloc.

“The EAC Treaty says the bloc is market driven, when you are an observer, you just watch the proceedings. But as a partner, you will have more stakes in the agenda and participate effectively,” Mr Peter Mathuki, the Chief Executive Officer with the regional business council, said.

Article 4 of the EAC Procedure for Granting Observer Status allows any country, intergovernmental or civil society organisation to apply for observer status in writing to the Secretary General who will circulate it to all partner states.

The application should explain reasons for seeking the observer status.

The East African Business Council Chairman Nicholas Nesbitt. The council is seeking a status of ‘a partner’ in the bloc, saying the observer status denies it effective participation.

A foreign country should affirm its commitment to the principles of the EAC Treaty, accept the community as set out in the treaty and adhere to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.

An inter-governmental or civil society organisation seeking the status should append a copy of the constituting legal instrument of the body.

While the EAC Summit considers an application for granting observer status to a foreign country, the council of ministers determines the fate of that of an inter-governmental or civil society organisation.

The application should be submitted six months before the summit or council of ministers meets.

Featu was founded over a decade ago to, among other things, harmonise education policies of the EAC partner states, develop labour standards within the education sector and to develop educational standards that match with international ones.

The union is made of teachers’ trade unions from across the EAC partner states, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Ms Leah Ulaya, the president of the Tanzania Teachers Union, blamed rampant teachers’ strikes in the region on EAC partner states’ failure to hold tripartite meetings for bargaining various issues as scheduled.

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