EA Integration Bid on Course

Published on 18th August 2009

The EAC has adopted a holistic integration approach where harmonization of policies among the five Partner States is taking place in all areas – economic, political and social.  Integration is being carried out in four broad and distinct and yet related stages namely the Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation, stipulated in the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community.

 

The Customs Union was embarked on by the three original countries in January, 2005, acceded to by Rwanda and Burundi and launched in July 2009. The aim is to abolish all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade within East Africa and establishing one common external tariff while trading with other countries outside East Africa.  The volume of trade internally has been steadily increasing over the years as evidenced by the statistics available at the Secretariat.

 

The ongoing negotiations of the Protocol to establish the EAC Common Market is the backbone of any integration as it will facilitate free movement of persons, goods, services, capital, right of residence and establishment. It requires establishment of regional supra national institutions that will address the challenges of these freedoms. Thus, the need to establish institutions and structures that will promote good governance, uphold rule of law, combat corruption and enhance ethics and integrity. With these freedoms, also comes challenges of issues related to peace and stability in the region; to which end, a lot is being done to ensure the appropriate mechanisms are in place to address those challenges.

 

Governors of Partner States’ Central Banks together with Ministries of Finance and planning have been working on harmonization fiscal and monetary policies to prepare for the Monetary Union set to be achieved by 2012. The three stages once finalized, the EAC will be ready for the Political Federation – ultimate goal of the EAC. Following the Summit directive to deepen sensitization to mobilize greater political will, a programme has been developed with the intention of reaching out to various other stakeholders including other organs of the Partner States’ governance systems, specifically the legislature and the Judiciary that will play key roles to lay the foundation for the ultimate and final goal of this integration.

 

The EAC has embarked on harmonization of policies in the areas of cooperation including those in productive, social, planning and infrastructure sectors, addressing joint strategies in energy, roads, railways, civil aviation, marine and waterways as well as management and conservation of the environment. Other sectors with tangible achievements include education, health, immigration, gender and community development to mention but a few. Without prudent governance systems and institutions, enforcement of all these strategies will be undermined by the negative tendencies that have always undermined development on the African continent.

 

For all the above programmes but on political integration in particular, we have a directive from the Summit of Heads of State to strengthen sensitization and information dissemination so as to mobilize deeper political will and ensure that the citizenry of East Africa embrace the EAC integration and political Federation in particular. The Secretariat has carried out sensitization among various stakeholders including civil society organizations, universities and institutions of higher learning, local governments and political parties. It is our wish that likeminded organizations come together and form east African wide fora i.e. a forum of national parliamentary committees in charge of governance and accountability, security, social services, among others.

 

Article 6 of the Treaty provides for adherence to the fundamental principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, accountability and transparency for the achievement of the objectives of the Community. In pursuance of these principles, the Council of Ministers has acknowledged the need to develop a regional framework on good governance that should cover democracy and rule of law; anti-corruption, ethics and integrity; social justice and equal opportunities as well as human rights. As a result, the EAC Secretariat is fully engaged with the National Electoral Commissions, National Human Rights Commissions, the Chief Justices/ Judiciary, anti-corruption agencies in order to harmonize policies and standards for the EAC region.

 

There are many definitions of good governance, one of them being that of the World Bank which defines good governance as a phenomenon characterized by predictable, open and enlightened policy making imbued with a professional ethos acting in furtherance of public good, the rule of law, transparency processes and a strong civil society participation in public affairs.  Poor governance on the other hand, is characterized by arbitrary policy making, unaccountable bureaucracies, unjust legal systems, abuse of executive powers, unengaged civil society in public affairs and widespread corruption.

 

The EAC framework, therefore, is an attempt to promote good governance in harmony with national efforts already in place and upgrading them to the regional level within the internationally acceptable standards. Like all other policy issues, the EAC is trying to set similar benchmarks on governance and democracy related issues.

 

There is need to create a forum for continuous briefing and consultations with the national parliaments cannot be over emphasized. With their legislation, representation, and oversight mandate, Parliaments are fundamental players in the promotion of good governance. They are the voices of their constituents; they can influence policy and ensure its implementation; they are the link between governments and the people. Therefore, we expect MPs to look at issues of governance more broadly than either governments or grassroots people. At the grassroots, people always focus on the effects and not cause i.e. corruption, roads, medical provisions.

 

There is need to establish a mechanism for regular and structured briefing and engagement with national parliaments, as institution which have a key role to play in the EAC integration in general and specifically, in political integration and promotion of good governance.  

 

National parliaments are central in the EAC programme on good governance. I’m very optimistic that a mechanism will be identified and proposed for engagement with parliaments within the institutional framework of the EAC. This will facilitate practical working relationship that will ensure more visibility of the EAC integration, through parliamentarians to the grassroots communities.

 

By Hon Beatrice Kiraso, Deputy Secretary General, (political federation) at the EAC consultative meeting of parliamentary committees

 

 


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