Is East African Community about to collapse again?
Key meeting called off twice as leaders trade words
Thursday January 3, 2019
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News reporter, Arusha
Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) have expressed concern over the progress of the East African Community integration agenda saying several indicators have of late been showing the process is on the verge of collapse.
They queried the commitment of the EAC partner states in the integration project, given rampant misconduct, reluctance to remit outstanding contributions to the bloc and postponement of this year’s heads of state summit.
“We’re concerned with leaked letters and postponement of the summit, the heads of state should talk about it during their next meeting,” suggested Dr Aden Abdikadir, an EALA member from Kenya, stressing that East Africans were worried the future of the bloc was hanging in the balance.
The EAC heads of state were initially scheduled to meet on November 31, 2018, but the Ordinary Summit had to be postponed to December 27, owing to Burundi’s failure to send a representative.
The treaty directs the heads of state to meet on November 30 every year, but the outgoing EAC Chairman, President Yowerei Museveni of Uganda, last year rescheduled the summit to December 27, 2018, due to lack of quorum.
According to Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State, quorum is made of all partner states representation, which is in consonance with decision making by consensus under Article 12 of the Treaty.
The Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Dr Ally Kivenjija, blamed Burundi for not sending any representative to the meeting of the highest organ of the bloc on November 30 as Rwanda and South Sudan had done.
Presidents Museveni, John Magufuli of Tanzania and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya were in Arusha to attend the meeting in person.
Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Salvar Kir of South Sudan had appointed ministers to represent them at the summit. Rwanda was represented by Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera and South Sudan by Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs Minister Paul Moyom Akech.
Barely a week ahead of the Ordinary Summit rescheduled for December 27, 2018, President Museveni had called it off once again, the Head of the Department of Corporate Communication, Mr Owora Othieno, said in a statement.
“President Museveni is consulting his fellow heads of state on the exact date,” the statement reads in part.
The EALA members wondered that social media platforms were awash with copies of confidential letters of heads of state; calling on the partner states to investigate the rampant misconduct in a bid to put their houses in order.
“I’ve never seen a head of state’s letter leak in such a way, it has either been deliberately done or there is an alarming rate of indiscipline within the states’ machinery,” Dr Abdullah Makame, the EALA member from Tanzania, observed.
Presidents Museveni and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi recently traded words in letters sent to each other, apparently hinting there was a division among the EAC partner states.
Another EALA member from Uganda, Mr George Odongo, accused Burundi of impairing the integration process, citing a recent incident which saw Burundi officials bar Ugandan scouts and officials from entering the country.
Ms Suzanne Nakauki also from Uganda, who tabled a motion on financial doldrums facing the EAC Secretariat, said the EALA members and the secretariat staff were not paid their salaries due to partner states’ reluctance to remit their contributions to the bloc.
She said none of the EAC partner states had fully paid for its contribution, contrary to Article 123(7) of the Treaty which dictates partner states to remit the same in the first six months of the financial year which ended on December 31.
Dr Abdikadir said partner states were actually supposed to increase their contributions for the EAC Budget to tally with the increasing number of new institutions.
Kenya was leading by December by remitting 80 per cent of its contributions, followed by Uganda 53 per cent and Tanzania 53 per cent.
Rwanda contributed 25 per cent, while Burundi and South Sudan had not yet made any contribution despite the fact that they jointly owed the community $40 million in arrears.
Ms Nakauki said barely 34 per cent of the $50 million worth of contributions from the EAC partner states had been remitted by December, suggesting that punitive measures, including suspension, should be taken against defaulting states.
The EALA Speaker, Mr Martin Ngoga, who clocked one year in office in December, nonetheless, pleaded with the regional law makers to give the EAC Council of Ministers time to work on their grievances.
Mr Ngoga said the EAC was not empowered to punish member states when they delayed to remit their membership contributions.
“Suspension is not within the competence of neither the House nor the EAC Secretariat,” he told the irate EALA members.
The EAC Treaty says partner states, which do not remit their contributions, among other obligations, should be taken to the Summit of Heads of State, the measure which has never been applied ever since the bloc was revived.