The progress and achievements registered so far in the East African Community integration should serve as a cornerstone for the next stages of integration that has already started, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Donatile Mukabalisa, has said.
Mukabalisa, who was yesterday speaking at the opening of the East African Legislative Assembly plenary sessions at Parliament Buildings in Kigali, urged regional, national lawmakers and other officials present to continue working together to ensure that all the objectives of the treaty establishing the East African Community are achieved.
“Let us continue to work together to ensure that the Monetary Union and Political Federation processes are fully implemented as provided for by the treaty establishing our regional parliament,” Mukabalisa said.
The Monetary Union envisages a single currency as a mode of transaction in all partner states, while the Political Federation is a grand dream of achieving unified leadership, with partner states becoming federal entities within the main state under one president.
Other objectives of the treaty include Customs Union, Common Market, which are already operational.
This is the second meeting of the third Assembly.
The sessions, which kicked off Monday on the back of threats of boycott by a section of members aggrieved by EALA Speaker Margaret Zziwa’s method of running the regional parliament, run until October 30.
The sessions are being held in Kigali for the second time as part of the rotation principle provisions of Article 55 of the treaty establishing EALA.
Mukabalisa said the region was already enjoying the benefits of the progress hitherto made and commended member states for their efforts thus far.
“We are already enjoying the benefits and progress that have been possible as a result of the customs union and common markets,” she said, citing operationalisation of the single customs territory, progress toward the elimination of non-tariff barriers and operationalisation of one-stop border posts, among others.
Mukabalisa reminded the lawmakers that they had a critical role in conducting public awareness on integration issues.
She urged them to actively participate in sharing experiences and expertise as well as foster social cohesion and unity among the citizens of the Community.
“We, as the leaders from EAC partner states, at different levels, are eagerly committed to continuing educating our citizens on the principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human rights,” Mukabalisa said.
Speaker Zziwa called for continued efforts to strengthen the integration process, urging parliamentarians to take it a notch higher by debating integration issues more expeditiously.
“I consider it imperative that we strengthen relations between the sister parliaments even further as envisaged by Article 65 of the treaty establishing the Community,” Zziwa said.
She cited awareness campaigns as a key component in EALA’s strategic plan that she said was a priority for the Assembly.
“It is EALA’s intention to target key stakeholders, including parliamentarians, and we as EALA will be keen to deliberate comprehensively with Members of the Parliament here,” Zziwa said.
MP Kessy Nderakindo (Tanzania) called on fellow legislators to make deliberate efforts toward the integration process, terming it “a sure way to get the region back to where it was before the colonialists created the artificial borders.”
Nderakindo said from Rwanda, other EAC member states would take lessons of good governance and fight corruption that is eating up the region’s economy.
The plenary will be followed by the 8th inter-parliamentary relations seminar under the theme, “Insecurity and terrorism as threats to EAC integration: How can EAC develop a common position?”
The seminar, due on October 31 to November 2, will bring together parliamentarians from partner states and members of EALA.
EALA has, since its inception in 2002, passed 62 Bills and Acts.
During the EALA sessions in Kigali, attention will be focused on the second and third reading of the EAC Cooperatives Bill, as well as receiving and considering reports from committees such as of regional affairs and conflict resolution, the legal rules and privileges committee, and trade and investments.