KIGALI - President Paul Kagame will today launch public consultations on the formation and fast-tracking of the East African political federation. Speaking during a town hall meeting yesterday, Foreign Affairs minister Dr Charles Murigande said the exercise will be launched at Parliamentary in Kimihurura. The regional bloc is made up of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Such consultations were last year held in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the original members of the community.
The President’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Dr Richard Sezibera, said yesterday that the consultations will be carried out by a national taskforce made up of representatives from various segments of the Rwandan society.
“Members of the team will include representatives from the academia, women, youth, the handicapped and local government officials, among others groups, and the activities will be coordinated by the line ministry,” Sezibera said during a live telecast meeting.
Officials said that during the consultations, people will be asked two questions; whether they support the East African political federation, and whether the process to create it should be fast tracked.
Sezibera said the consultations made in the other three East African states had all supported the federation but Tanzanians were reserved on its fast tracking.
Murigande said the reason Tanzanians gave for their reservations for the fast tracking part was their internal conflict between the mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, which they felt should be solved before the region integrates politically.
Tanzania itself is a federal state. Rwanda and Burundi were integrated into the regional bloc last year.
According to Murigande, the act of consulting members of general public was proposed by the Heads of State of member states after they got a report from a commission of inquiry headed by Kenyan Attorney General, Amos Wako, regarding the federation.
“The Wako Commission proposed that the federation, if fast tracked, would be in place in 2013 but the Presidents decided that it would be more meaningful and participatory if the public was consulted first,” said the minister.
He said the world over countries are having to form more viable economic blocs for purposes of achieving sustainable development. “Even developed countries have been forced to integrate,” Murigande said, giving the example of Europe.
Sezibera said that an opinion poll was conducted in Rwanda seeking views about the federation and majority voted in favour of its creation. He said that the results of the poll will soon be released.
Both officials said that there are various stages that will be underwent before the federation, if the population allows it to take place.
Some of the stages include a common market, having a common currency and a regional industrial policy.
Meanwhile, Murigande said that cabinet will this week approve the names of Rwandans who are supposed to be sent to the EAC secretariat in Tanzania. Rwanda is also yet to send legislators to the East African Legislative Assembly, a delay Murigande said was caused by legislation problems.
“There was supposed to be amendments to the law putting in place the assembly and all member states had to ratify the changes. So far all countries have ratified it, save for Kenya, which has been undergoing a post-election crisis,” he said.