EAC a step closer to Monetary Union after adoption of key draft instruments

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Kalihangabo represented Rwanda at the meeting. File.

Government lawyers from the East African Community partner states last week gave the green light to the draft legislation that seeks to establish the regional monetary institute that is seen as crucial in having a common currency in the bloc.

The draft legislation seeking to create the East African Monetary Institute (EAMI) was cleared in Arusha last week during a meeting of Attorneys General, Solicitors General and ministers responsible for judicial and constitutional affairs within the regional bloc.

This was the first meeting in three years to be held by the EAC Sectoral Council on legal and judicial affairs, a situation that has been blamed for the stalling of different projects.

EAMI is a transitional institution that will carry out preparatory work for the East African Monetary Union (EAMU).

The establishment of the EAMI is behind schedule since it was supposed to be in place by 2015.

“The work done by the Sectoral Council on legal and judicial affairs is commendable. The meeting cleared a significant number of EAC Bills and draft regulations which had stalled for over two years,” Isabelle Kalihangabo, Ministry of Justice Permanent Secretary, who represented Rwanda at the meeting, told The New Times on Monday.

The Sectoral Council also cleared the bill establishing the East African Statistics Bureau, another crucial instrument for the implementation of the Monetary Union.

Meanwhile, Kalihangabo said that they also cleared three vehicle load control regulations: the EAC Vehicle Load Control (Enforcement Measures) Regulations, 2016; the EAC Vehicle Load Control (Axle Loads and Configuration) Regulations, 2016; and the EAC Vehicle Load Control (Special Loads) Regulations, 2016.

“These bills and draft regulations will subsequently be submitted to the EAC Council of Ministers,” she said, adding that there are other items which were differed to the next meeting of the Sectoral Council because they were not yet ready for adoption.

Highlighting difficulties caused by the lack of the sectoral council’s meeting, last year, MP Patricia Hajabakiga, the chairperson of Rwanda’s chapter in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), told The New Times that laws such as the EAC Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing (SQMT) Act are outdated and need urgent review.

Bills are first accepted by the Sectoral Council before submission to the Assembly.

Enacted in 2006, the Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act provides a framework for development and implementation of related activities in the bloc. Lower level technocrats of the bloc earlier worked on its amendments.

But the Arusha meeting rejected regulations in line with operationalising the Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act.

A process has reportedly been initiated to amend the Act by separating metrology from the rest – standardisation, quality assurance and testing.

Agreement enabling cross-border legal practice not signed

Meanwhile, members of the East Africa Law Society (EALS), the regional Bar Association, who were in Arusha hoping to see their Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) approved and signed by the ministers – during a sideline event – left disappointed.

The agreement aims at enabling cross-border legal practice in the region.

An EALS statement issued Saturday states that “notwithstanding that the Attorneys-General and Ministers of Justice in their informal consultations showed support to the Agreement, in principle, they did not sign the MRA citing the need for further review of the document.”

Richard Mugisha, the EALS president, told The New Times that they are disappointed but indicated they are not giving up.

Mugisha said: “We were disappointed. There has been sufficient consultation over the years on the document. But that’s it; we shall give them more time to review.”

“Since the lawyers through the various law societies want to go ahead with the MRA, we will embark on multiple approaches to achieve the aspirations of our members notwithstanding the bureaucratic hurdles.”

The EALS and national Bar Associations have since 2012 been at the forefront of steering the process of negotiations to present a framework governing cross-border legal practice within the Community under the MRA.

Their push is in line with Article 11 of the Protocol establishing the EAC Common Market that relates to harmonisation and recognition of academic and professional qualifications of professionals in the region.

Last March, Rwandan engineers had reason to smile when they were admitted to the EAC Federation of Engineers after signing the Mutual Recognition Agreement that allows locally trained engineers to ply their trade in any EAC partner state.