President Uhuru Kenyatta today delivered the State of EAC Address at a Special Sitting at the EALA Chambers in Arusha, Tanzania. In his Address, President Kenyatta who is the Chairperson of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State, called on the continent to wake up from its slumber and to take head-on, the steps necessary to rid itself of poverty. The Head of State remarked that despite the fact that the EAC had made some discoveries in natural resources, its citizens continued to live in abject poverty. “In the last five years, our region has seen discoveries of new minerals and fossil deposits. Yet we have hardly scratched the surface of our wealth creation, while the number of our poor remains unacceptably high”, he said.
In that regard, the Head of State challenged the Council to seriously consider the complete harmonization of Community laws and regulations on exploitation of natural resources.The President maintained that it was important for the region to take advantage of the opportunities by fully embracing the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocols and at the advent of the Monetary Union, and challenged the Assembly to be steadfast in service delivery.
“Our resolve is expressed in the theme of the Financial Year 2014/15 budget which glories in the title: “Consolidating the Common Market Protocol and commencing the implementation of the Monetary Union Protocol”. It is the duty of the Assembly to devote itself to guarding the gains we have made”, he said.On the Political Federation which is the ultimate goal of the integration process, President Kenyatta was emphatic that the Community would remain on course in a bid to cement the political unity of the region. however reiterated that Political Federation was a process and not an event.
He remarked that the Summit would give its stand and clear direction on the roadmap ahead. This follows a revised draft model structure, roadmap and action plan for the East African Community Political Federation that was developed by experts and that has received views from various stakeholders, including the Assembly. The Chairperson of the Summit further reiterated the importance of the on-going tripartite negotiations between the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), EAC and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
“The proposed grand free trade area comprises 26 countries, with a combined population of nearly 600 million people – accounting for nearly 57% of Africa’s population – and a total GDP of about one Trillion Dollars. Once complete (the negotiations), it will be the engine of the continent’s economic and political empowerment. I am satisfied with the pace of the negotiations. I look forward, as I am sure we all do, to the conclusion of these negotiations before the last quarter of 2014”, President Kenyatta remarked.The President called for stringent measures to be put in place to address the re-emerging poaching of wildlife which he said, threatened to kill the tourism sector. “Sadly, East Africa has been identified as a major source region and a favourite transit route for this callous commerce”, President Kenyatta lamented.
“In the period between January and October 2013 alone, over ten tonnes of Ivory were intercepted at the Port of Mombasa,” he added. President Kenyatta thus called on the region’s security agencies and the wildlife management authorities to tighten the co-operation and to stem the menace.The Head of State called for joint search of peace and political stability of the neighbourhood, especially in the Republics of Somalia, South Sudan and in the Great Lakes region. The Kenyan President further undertook to push for the amendments to the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC during his tenure.
“The Treaty has served us well but like our national constitutions, it is a living document, to be reviewed from time to time. It is my hope that the present examination of the Treaty will be hastened to align it to the realities of our present experience and our hopes for the future” he remarked.President Kenyatta went on further to say that his term would see better performance in terms of adherence to the decisions, directives and legislations made. “They (directives, decisions and legislations) will not serve the Community’s interest if we can neither enforce nor evaluate them. We must mean what we say”, the Head of State said.In attendance were Hon Phyllis Kandie, Chairperson, EAC Council of Ministers and the Ministers for EAC from the Partner States, the EAC Secretary General, Amb Richard Sezibera, EACJ Judge President, Hon Harold Nsekela, EALA legislators, several dignitaries and high ranking government officials.
On her part, the Speaker of EALA, Rt. Hon (Dr) Margaret Nantongo Zziwa congratulated the Summit for the wise leadership noting that citizens had continued to enjoy the benefits of integration. She remarked that more was required to be done to realise the tenets of the integration pillars and called on the Partner States to immediately enable their domestic laws to conform to the Protocols.Specifically, the Common Market Protocol which was signed four years ago spells out a number of benefits for the region including the free movement of persons, labour, goods and services among others. “We are yet to see real dynamism on the part of the Partner States to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol but we remain hopeful that they will act”, the Speaker said.“The Partner States are indeed at various stages when it comes to amending their laws to conform to the Common Market Protocol – however, we are of the opinion that the legal processes need to be hastened”, Rt. Hon Zziwa remarked.
She hailed the signing of the Monetary Union Protocol in November 2013 and noted that many of the benefits sought by the citizens would be multiplied under the Monetary Union due to strengthening of competition in the respective domestic markets as well as efficiencies arising out of greater economies of scale.“We now look forward to the eventual ratification of the Protocol come July 1, 2014 so that implementation commences in earnest”, Speaker Zziwa stated.The Speaker once again called for the removal of Non- Tariff Barriers which she maintained continued to hamper business. She termed the envisaged entry of the Single Customs Territory as a positive measure in the quest to enhance trade.The application of the Single Customs Territory (SCT) shall reduce cargo clearing costs by half, since the transit bond fees along the corridor would be scrapped. The move shall definitely enhance trade thus enhance sustainable economic growth to propel the region into a middle income status in the next decade.
The Speaker urged the Summit to carry on with the profound initiative of ensuring a lasting solution to peace is found in South Sudan and the region.In her vote of thanks remarks, EALA Member, Hon Patricia Hajabakiga, hailed the President for the remarks which she noted were progressive and set the cue for stimulus of the integration process. She lauded the progress recorded in both the Republic of Kenya and at the EAC and said the region looked forward to more progress under the stewardship of President Uhuru Kenyatta.A number of Bills, Motions and Resolutions are expected to be debated and passed as the two week Plenary Sitting proceeds.