Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Museveni urges to focus on EAC political federation

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President Yoweri Museveni addressing EALA. (courtesy photo)
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has reiterated the need for East Africans to remove all hindrances in order to fast track the East African Community (EAC) integration and enable citizens to enjoy its benefits.
According to the Ugandan president, the emphasis should not only be on economic integration, but also on political integration through the formation of EAC federation. “Even if the economic integration is successful, there are some issues that you cannot address just by economic integration,” he pointed out. “It is not easy for instance to address the issue of common defense when you are different countries.”
Museveni, who is also the chairperson of the EAC summit of heads of state, made the remarks on Wednesday while addressing members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) who are having a special meeting in Kigali since April 12 to 26.
He noted that even the economic integration process is not easy when you are not of the same political mind, as can be seen in the current crisis of the Euro zone. “EALA and all members of the EAC should push even more for the cause of an EAC federation,” he pointed out.
Article 5 (2) of the treaty establishing the EAC states that there should be a Customs Union, a Common Market, subsequently a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation in order to strengthen and regulate the industrial, commercial, infrastructural, cultural, social, political and other relations of the Partner States.
The community presents a market of around 130 million people, and the combined GDP of EAC nations is over US$ 79 billion.
Museveni urged the EAC to strive to first of all solve some of the fundamentals facing great challenges, thus hampering development. In this regard, president he highlighted “small markets and inadequate infrastructure, especially electricity” as major areas that need quick action.
“Before bargaining the international market, you need to have your own market. If you are small, then how will you go and negotiate big international markets,” he observed.
Museveni committed himself to prioritizing infrastructure development, and noted that he met both the Russian and Chinese presidents and interested them in some infrastructure. “Whenever I get a chance, I talk about the railway and also electricity,” he said.
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Yoweri Museveni flanked by EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera and EALA speaker Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, with EALA MPs. (courtesy photo)
Even though the EAC partner states have signed protocols such as the Common Market Protocol aimed at facilitating free movement of people and goods within the community, some hindrances to their implementation remain. It’s in this context that Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, the EALA speaker, took the occasion to call on the partner states to immediately adjust their domestic laws to conform to the Protocol.
“The Common Market Protocol which was signed three years ago spells out a number of benefits for the region including the free movement of persons, labor, goods and services.  We are yet to see real dynamism on the part of the partner states to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol,” she observed, adding that steps like the issuance of national identity cards will go a long way in facilitating the free movement of people.
Another vexing issue is the removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), which has proven to be a difficult exercise since it depends on the goodwill of the partner states.
“NTBs continue to pose a big threat to the free flow of business in the region and this limits the people of East Africa from enjoying the benefits of integration. The time has come for the EAC region to collectively seek permanent solutions to the removal of NTBs”, Zziwa said.
Despite the challenges, Museveni said he remains optimistic about the integration spirit. “When the EAC gets closer together, the sky is the limit especially now when we have discovered the gaps,” he concluded.


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