The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has urged the East African Community (EAC) Partner States to expedite the ratification of protocols, including one on foreign policy, which would, among others, enable citizens from one country to get consular services from another’s Embassy abroad. EALA Plenary made the recommendation on October 31, 2022 as it adopted the report of its Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges on Assessment of the status of ratifications and implementation of EAC Protocols and Laws. While presenting the report, MP Kennedy Ayason Mukulia, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges said that the main objective of this activity was to assess the status of ratification of concluded Protocols, and the implementation of laws of the Community by the Partner States. He said that out of the 22 EAC protocols, six have not been ratified by the Partner States. As general observation [of the Committee], he said, all Partner States have delays in ratifying some of the protocols. The protocols that were pending ratification include the protocol on cooperation in meteorological service, protocol on information, communication and technology (ICT), protocol on extended jurisdiction of the EAC Court of Justice, protocol on Foreign Policy Coordination, Amendment to Article 24, two (paragraph two) [of protocol] on the establishment of EAC Customs Union. Among the recommendations that the Assembly adopted, there is to direct the EAC Partner States to ratify all the pending protocols because they have taken a long time since they were concluded and adopted. “Their recommendation is that there is nothing the Partner States should do, but rather ratify all of them as soon as possible ... because there are the negotiated protocols that they were involved in, and of course they have to,” Mukulia said, calling for the speeding up of the ratification process. The impact of delayed protocol ratification According to MPs, lack of protocol ratification has a negative impact on EAC citizens. MP Fatuma Ndangiza said that protocols are the ones that are guiding the integration process, and that a delay in the ratification of a protocol, implies a delay in this process; and denying people the benefits that come with integration. For instance, she said that the protocol on foreign policy coordination was signed by all the Partner States in 2010, and involved cooperation on issues of having common position as Africans on various issues, and agreeing on backing candidates for example, “because sometimes we clash when we are East Africans”, and diplomatic representation. “For example, when a Partner State does not have an Embassy in a country A, if this foreign policy coordination [protocol] has been ratified, it means if Rwanda probably doesn’t have an Embassy in Pakistan and probably the United republic of Tanzania [URT] has it, through an arrangement, Rwanda could ask URT to represent its diplomatic interests. So, it’s a very important protocol,” he said. “But you can imagine it was signed in 2010, so it’s now 12 years and it has not yet been fully ratified,” she added. Regarding the communication and technology protocol, Mukulia said it was important especially given the current situation where the World is advancing in ICT. “We should be able to have a common ground on how we can be able to work on ICT matters that are harmonised within the region,” he said, adding that Tanzania and Burundi have not implemented One-Area -Network. According to information from EAC, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda are in a One-Area-Network that has enabled easy communication across the EAC Partner States where the roaming costs have been harmonised and calls across these Partner States are treated as local calls. Tanzania and Burundi are in the process of joining the One-Area-Network, it indicated. On the amendment of Article 24, 2 (paragraph two) of the [EAC] Customs Union, he said that the provision entails the formation of an [independent] committee on trade remedies, which would be mandated to settle trade issues. “You find that country A has disputes with country B; that committee would have solved the issues of those disputes,” he said, adding that those disputes are associated with non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Ezéchiel Nibigira, Chairperson of EAC Council of Ministers said that the Council welcomes all the recommendations by the EALA legislature, and will study them with a view to implement them. “There is always room for improvement, though sometimes the procedures involved in ratifying protocols may be a bit longer, taking into consideration the procedures in each country. What I see is that the Council may work closely with the Secretariat so that we may have a kind of timeline that each country may follow so that we may expedite this process of ratification in every country,” he said.