PARLIAMENT - President Paul Kagame yesterday said that for better output, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) must be empowered in all aspects.
He said this while opening the second EALA session, a function that took place at the Parliamentary buildings in Kimihurura.
“The EAC cannot achieve its vision of a dynamic, progressive and prosperous region without a strong upright body to guide its healthy development and hold it accountable on behalf of East Africans,” said Kagame referring to EALA.
He noted budgetary shortfalls, among other problems, as some of the areas where the regional assembly is still incapacitated.
“I am aware that you operate under budgetary and other constraints. I intend to consult with my colleagues to explore possibilities of addressing this important matter,” said the President, who is also the Chairperson of the EAC.
He also underscored the need for the business community to be more innovative saying that this would empower the five-nation bloc by creating employment and expanding the region’s tax base.
Kagame underscored the efforts by the community in closely working with other economic blocs as a way of forging a wide ranging integration agenda.
“In this context, an EAC-SADC-COMESA Tripartite Summit of Heads of State is scheduled for October this year in Kampala to examine how these three regional economic communities can speedily move towards a free trade area,” he said.
He added that this would promote transport corridors and joint infrastructure initiatives.
On regional infrastructure, the President said that the Community will address the creation in East Africa of world-class infrastructure necessary for regional and international trade.
“It is fundamental that we solve the crippling shortfalls in rail, road, port and harbour as well as telecommunication facilities,” he said.
Kagame announced that he was in talks with the EAC Secretary General to hold a retreat by all the organs making up the bloc, with an aim of forging a common purpose.
In his remarks, the EALA Speaker Abdirahin Abdi welcomed Rwanda’s accession to the EAC saying that the region will benefit a lot from the country.
‘I am very confident that this country will provide new impetus and vibrancy to the community as we forge along together to realize our dream of a stable and prosperous East Africa,” said Abdi.
He also recognized Rwanda’s efforts in women empowerment saying that this achievement in advancing gender mainstreaming in various fields gives it the proud position of Number One.
Rwanda has the biggest number of women representatives at the EALA with five out of its nine members being women.
The 45 Parliamentarians, who are attending the second EALA session since the first one that was held in Nairobi in June, will be in the country up to early next month.
President Kagame, who assumed the EAC Chairmanship three months ago, becomes the first Head of State to preside over the opening of EALA and according to Abdi, from this Kigali session, it will become a tradition.
EALA which is held quarterly, is rotational among the five member states that include Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.