Sunday July 29, 2018
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
Financial constraints are inhibiting the East African Community Secretariat from sensitising the citizenry on the integration agenda, the EAC Secretary General, Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, has admitted.
Mr Mfumukeko told parties to the Consultative Dialogue Framework (CDF) in Nairobi recently that the budget of the Corporate Communications and Public Relations Affairs Department was always scrapped.
“This shows that activities of the department are not given due priority,” the EAC Secretary General observed.
The secretariat is currently mobilising funds from outside the community to ensure the department operates effectively, he said. A team of journalists representing mainstream media would soon visit the EAC flagship projects across the region for a wider coverage, he added.
Mr Mfumukeko called on partner states and the CDF parties to also consider carrying out sensitisation programmes frequently in their respective countries in a bid to reach out to as many East Africans as possible.
Dr Alice Yalla, the director of Social Affairs in the Kenya’s Ministry of EAC Affairs, said a study indicated that the entry point for sensitisation of the integration agenda ought to target issues ordinary people are engaged with.
“If you concentrate on the integration pillars alone, people become bored,” she said, adding “If you are addressing farmers, for instance, tell them about the need for their crops to meet the EAC standards. And when you address students, introduce them to harmonisation of education across the region.”
She said there was need for using people who could speak vernaculars in some places and for ministries of EAC Affairs to build the capacity of journalists on the integration process.
About 100 representatives from the private sector, CSOs, professional bodies, academia, media, EAC organs and institutions, development partners and other interest groups met in Nairobi for 6th EAC Secretary General’s (SG) Forum to review the framework and its impact on the integration process.
The CDF though is supposed to be a regular and continuous dialogue between the EAC, partner states, private sector, civil society and other interest groups both at the national and regional level; it was revealed during the SG’s Forum that Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania were not performing well.
“The National Dialogue Forum is not strong in Tanzania, it lacks sufficient coordination for parties to speak with one voice,” Ms Rehema Mtingwa, a representative from the private sector in Tanzania, told the SG Forum.
Save for Kenya and Uganda, whose national dialogues are vibrant, ministries of East African Community Affairs from the three countries were not represented during the SG Forum.
TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), which was all along funding national dialogues in the three EAC partner states, has stopped supporting them for it to concentrate on infrastructural projects, representatives of civil society organisations from the countries separately reported.
While Uganda has established a pogramme targeting the media, Kenya is carrying out a social media hype dubbed Connect, Vuka Boda to sensitise university students on issues related to education in the integration process.
The CDF dates back to November 2012 when the EAC Council of Ministers adopted the framework in Nairobi with a view of widening and deepening co-operation among partner states in political, economic, social, cultural, health, education, science, technology, defence, security, legal and judicial affairs.
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 East African Community, whose collapse was partly attributed to the non-involvement of these key stakeholders and the wider citizenry of East Africa.
Themed Strategising for Impact: People-Centred and Market-Driven Integration, 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 EAC Secretariat has been organising the forum along with the Regional Dialogue Committee (RDC) comprising 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.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ has been extending financial support to the forum.
The ministry responsible for the EAC Affairs in each partner state is responsible for coordinating systematic and meaningful engagement of the private sector, civil society and other interest groups.
At the regional level, the CDF provides a mechanism for dialogue and involvement of these groups on a continuous basis in accordance with the EAC calendar of events.
The dialogue at the national and regional level culminates at the Annual SG’s Forum whose agenda the RDC develops.
The National Dialogue Forum is not strong in Tanzania, it lacks sufficient coordination for parties to speak with one voice,” Ms Rehema Mtingwa, a representative of the private sector in Tanzania.
The adoption of the CDF in 2012 was in line with Article 127 of the Treaty establishing the EAC, 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”.