Members of the Lower Chamber of Parliament, yesterday, unanimously supported the Fast Tracking of the East African Political Federation but raised several concerns on the country’s security and sovereignty.
This was realised during a consultative meeting by the members of the National Consultative Committee (NCC) on the fast tracking of the federation of partner states of the EAC and the Parliamentarians.
During the deliberations that took place at the Parliamentary building in Kimihurura, MPs also recognised the advantages that will come with the federation which will bring together five EAC partner states that include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
“Owing to the fact that ours is a land locked country and our only access to the world is through these member states there are many advantages …the federation will open our gates to the world,” said Francis Kaboneka, an MP.
Rwanda has access to the sea through the Kenyan port of Mombasa and Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam.
Appointed by government, the 12-man NCC has since March, been seeking views of Rwandans on the Political federation and according to Prof. Anastase Shyaka, its chairman, they have since reached over 80,000 Rwandans.
“Without the political federation, all other projects like the common market and the monetary union will be difficult to achieve…we have seen a clear example in the European Union which took over 50 years to get somewhere and this was not until the political federation was established,” said Gideon Kayinamura, another MP.
He challenged all stakeholders to expedite the political federation to pave way for other initiatives. Others were, however, concerned by Rwanda’s security and its sovereignty after the creation of the federation.
“This is a good idea but what concerns me is the level of the sovereignty our country will retain after the creation of a federal government…we all know what it means being
Rwandan and people will want assurance on this,” said Judith Kanakuze.
To this, Shyaka said that all countries will have equal rights and equal say in the federation.
“That is even exercised in all undertakings today. For example, all countries pay equal contribution and have the same number of legislators representing them at the East
African Legislative Assembly,” Shyaka assured the MPs.
Another problem over which the lawmakers expressed concern was on reports that one of the member-states had initially rejected Rwanda from being part of the federation on grounds that the country would take advantage of its vast land.
“We have to know the position of Tanzania before committing ourselves. Otherwise, we might end up affiliating ourselves to countries that don’t want us,” said MP Libérata Kayitesi.
Others referred to the expulsion of Rwandans two years ago from Tanzania by the citizens of the country. MPs raised concern on their (Tanzanian citizens’) will to form the federation.
Shyaka responded saying that with time, the Tanzanians would understand the benefits to be attained from the federation.
“The problem is the closed system into which they were cultivated but they are now grasping that they will benefit from an enlarged community,” he said.
The NCC is set to complete its activities by the end of this month after which they will hand over their report to government.
Similar committees from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda finished their work and submitted their reports to their respective governments.
It is said that whereas both Kenyans and Ugandans supported the fast tracking of the federation, Tanzanians were in support of the federation but went against its fast tracking.
The committees were established following a report by a commission of experts that was dubbed the Wako Commission (named after its chairperson Amos Wako) which recommended that the federation be in place by 2013.