Nothing should hold back the progress of the East Africa Community (EAC) in aspects such as trade, infrastructure, industrialisation and security, President Paul Kagame has said.
Kagame was speaking at the 20th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State in Arusha, Tanzania.
During the summit, Kagame assumed the chairmanship of the bloc from Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni.
The chairmanship is on a rotational basis. Kenya assumed the rapporteurship role for all EAC policy related meetings.
Speaking at the summit, Kagame said that the EAC cannot afford to fall back on progress made over the years calling on regional leaders to ensure that the bloc works as it should in order to improve the lives of citizens.
Noting that the summit was held around the 20th anniversary of the revival of the East African Community, Kagame called for reflection on the value of the bloc to stakeholders and address whatever challenges that exist.
“We cannot afford to fall behind particularly when the EAC was starting to make good progress. It is up to us to ensure that this Community works for us as it should…nothing should hold us back from the important business that we have committed to for our collective good, including trade, infrastructure, industrialisation and security,” he said.
He called on fellow leaders of the bloc to work in solidarity and unity for the benefit of citizens of the region.
“As leaders of the Community, we, therefore, need to come together in a spirit of solidarity and unity for the benefit and well-being of the citizens of our region. Our Treaty is clear that the East African Community is people-centred. This should inform all our reflections and actions,” he said.
The success of the bloc, he said, will be evaluated on the basis of aspects such as ease of movement of people, goods and capital and its impact on citizens.
“We will measure success by how easily our people, their goods and capital move within our region and how prosperous in the end they become as a result. This is our task. I know we are equal to it if we choose to put all our energies into making it happen,” the new Chairperson said.
The President, who is also the sitting chairperson of the African Union, said that as the continent moves towards integration, regional economic blocs have a role to play as building blocks for Africa’s integration.
During his tenure, Kagame will prioritise manufacturing, infrastructure development, improvement of healthcare provision and strengthening of security systems in a bid to deal with cross-border security threats, especially terrorism and violent extremism.
He expressed the bloc’s solidarity with Kenya in the fight against terrorism.
Kenya has in the last several years been the target of terror attacks perpetrated by Somali based armed terrorist outfit Al Shabaab.
He also expressed readiness to serve in the new position and hailed the outgoing EAC chairperson.
The meeting was themed around enhancing economic, social and political integration of the bloc.
Rwanda’s Christophe Bazivamo was also reappointed as Deputy Secretary General of the Community for the next three years starting September 2019.
The Summit directed the Council of Ministers to review the relevant policies and harmonise the framework for importation of goods into the EAC, within three months, with a view to supporting the growth of local industries.
Kenya’s candidature for the non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term for the period 2021-2022 was endorsed by the Heads of State.
On the issue of European Union-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement, it was decided that EAC engages the EU on the matter in the next four months to get more clarification on the pertinent issues of concern. Thereafter, partner states who wish to may or may not sign the EPA.
Partner states were directed to fulfil their financial obligations to the Community in a timely manner following the review of the financial status.
The Summit directed that verification for admission of Somalia into the EAC be undertaken and reported on in the next summit.
The daylong meeting brought together leaders from all six member states of the EAC to discuss the Community’s progress in key sectors, including integration.
Other regional presidents present at the summit included President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania, and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.