|EALA Members at the Parliament of Kenya grounds|
We must learn from the past challenges and mistakes so that the events of 1977 do not occur again. The gains of integration are clearly becoming evident and must not be lost on us. Just two days ago, Excellencies Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania commissioned an important inter-country road that will connect Arusha and Mombasa in the next 2-3 years. This road will reduce the travel time from 14 hours to 2 and a half hours. It will also open up the bordering areas, whose huge potential was either completely untapped or under-utilised.
I know similar joint flagship infrastructural projects are underway in the region and will soon make the economies and livelihoods of our people much better. We must therefore jealously guard the unity of our region in order to realize the attendant benefits.
I wish to observe that since the inception of the new EAC through the 1999 EAC Treaty, the EAC has made tremendous progress in terms of implementation of the pillars. We have since adopted incremental approaches towards realization of the Customs Union, Common Market and the move towards a monetary union is properly on course. Talk of a political federation is also on course, and I hope it will be realized in our life time.
The talk of a political federation interests me. Scholars have suggested that a single President for the community may be the solution of our ethnicity problems. They argue that the problem of populous tribes in our respective countries dominating and determining the political agenda in those countries may become a thing of the past. Each of our partner states has what is perceived as a dominant tribe; as a federation, no ethnic group will lay any claim to dominance over all the other ethnic groups in the region. It is my firm belief that a political federation is an idea worth pursuing.
The Summit of the EAC has expressed tremendous goodwill and the Government of Kenya remains committed to the integration agenda. This is evidenced by the enhanced and accelerated approach towards the development of infrastructure to make our socio-economic relations more vibrant and fruitful.
The Standard Gauge Railway, which a few years back appeared to be a pipe dream is now a reality. There is increased focus towards the development of the Northern corridor. There are also plans to develop an oil and gas pipeline from Uganda through north-western Kenya (Turkana) to the port of Mombasa to ease transportation of crude oils and to enhance exportation of mineral oils. I see no wavering by our Summit towards this process and I am assured that in the near future, the fruits of these efforts will come to bear.
We have witnessed increased interest and participation from stakeholders in the integration process. The stakeholders are beginning to realize the benefits of integration due to increased market volumes, the obvious benefits of economies of scale, and our landlocked partners have exhibited increased interest due to the benefits accruing from ease of access to the sea. As a community, it is in our interest that we accommodate all the stakeholders in the process so that we collectively reap the long term benefits of cooperation.
The Customs Union which was our entry point is up and running. The Common Market which is at the transitional stage still experiences a few challenges. We need to be seen to be living and keeping to the tempo of the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) Common Market which came into force on July 1st 2010 following ratification by all the 5 member states. This Protocol provides for free movement of goods, labour, services and capital.
While this Protocol was ratified and came into force almost 6 years, the people of the region are still not enjoying these freedoms. Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), for instance, are one hindrance to the enjoyment of these freedoms. To zero in on one such NTB, Tanzania still requires citizens of Partner States to produce yellow-fever vaccination certificates on entry (apart from those carrying diplomatic passports – you may jokingly ask if yellow fever only attacks persons without diplomatic passports) .
We strive towards the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers to ease movement of people and goods while adhering to the Rules of Origin. As a Community, we are one and we need to be seen to be keeping the tempo in the spirit and letter of the Protocol. History will judge us harshly if we don’t live up to the will of the people as espoused in the East African Protocol.
I am also glad to note that peace has largely prevailed in the region. The Summit is happy with the strides the EALA is taking towards the promotion and maintenance of peace initiatives and avoidance of conflict in the region. No one can belittle the efforts EALA is making towards this end.
The EAC Treaty is a 1999 document. We must keep up with the fast changing times. Courtesy of globalization, technology is moving fast (probably faster than us), the Millennium Development Goals are being replaced by Sustainable Development Goals. The World Leaders recently met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and on September, 29th adopted the SDGs, the new post 2015 MDGs-Development Agenda.
In Nairobi from 1st to 3rd October, African and Asian Parliamentarians met to strategise and consider how best they would influence their Government and Parliament to play their due roles towards the implementation and achievement of the SDGs in the next 15 years (by 2030). I want to urge and challenge fellow honourable members of EALA as a regional assembly to also play an active part in ensuring that these goals are achieved.
I am not suggesting that the 1999 Treaty is obsolete; but I believe it is time to consider some amendments to the Treaty in order keep up with changing times. Amendments that we should consider include those that allow citizens to play a more active role in the management of the affairs of the region. Public participation has become a critical pillar in our modern constitutions.
For instance, access to the East African Court of Justice by the ordinary East African is among the critical matters that deserve serious consideration. The Treaty as it is, makes it impossible for the ordinary East African to access the Court.
We are aware that at times the EAC and EALA experiences financial challenges due to lack of sustained funding. We realize that there is need for direct financing by Partner States’ exchequers for EALA. The Council of Ministers is working towards finalizing proposals to actualize this need and the Summit is looking forward to deliberate upon the proposals and final communication will be made at the appropriate time.
In conclusion, I wish to hail the progress that has been realized in the EAC during the astute leadership of the EAC Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera. Let us now focus on strengthening the EAC, its organs and institutions for the prosperity of the people of our region. I wish the Assembly fruitful deliberations as we strive to build a prosperous EAC.
By the Rt Hon. Ekwee Ethuro,
Speaker of the Senate of the Republic of Kenya