The East African Community (EAC) is set to undergo institutional reforms that will facilitate the operation of the Common Market Protocol when it is adopted in April next year a senior official from the Secretariat has confirmed.
The institutional reforms will revolve around issues to do with increasing the powers of the EAC Secretariat to make decisions on behalf of the five Partner States of the Community.
Speaking to The New Times in an interview over the weekend, Ambassador Julius Onen, the deputy Secretary General of the EAC in charge of projects and programmes, said that once approved, the institutional reforms will transform the EAC Secretariat into a Commission with permanent staff (commissioners) that will administer programmes and projects of the regional bloc on a daily basis.
The community, he said, will have to undergo complete transformation to have a Common Market that is not only operational but also effective and valuable to the member States.
“The Community needs a Commission with executive authority to take decisions directly regarding implementation of the Common Market Protocol in particular. As we move closer to regional integration we cannot afford to leave some issues hanging,” he said.
He added that at present, the Council of Ministers with decision making powers meets rarely while the Common Market Protocol will also require closer supervision for effective implementation.
The Council of Ministers is made up of ministers responsible for EAC affairs and it is currently chaired by Rwanda’s, Monique Mukaruliza.
“Currently the Secretariat does not have powers to make decisions while the Council meets irregularly. But with the Common Market, we shall not allow any encumbrances. The Legislative Assembly has to be empowered to address issues of the Common Market.”
However, Onen observed that while having a Commission in place is possible, the challenge lies on how much power Partner States will be willing to surrender to the Institution.
“It is not enough to just have a Commission in place, it must be granted the power to make decisions,” he said.
The EAC Secretariat has its Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania and is headed by the Secretary General, Ambassador Juma Mwapachu.
According to Onen, 90 percent of the Common Market negotiations have been concluded and next on the agenda for the upcoming round of the Common Market negotiations in February next year will be discussing institutional reforms of the Community in addition to considering outstanding issues from the negotiations.
The timeframe for concluding and signing the EAC Common Market Protocol has been extended to the end of April 2009 while implementation is slated for 2010.