Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on the East African Community (EAC) to step up its integration efforts, showcase the fruits of integration and facilitate the process leading to the Political Federation of the region.
President Kenyatta’s remarks were delivered by the Speaker of the Kenyan Senate, Ekwee Ethuro, at the commencement of the latest session of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in Nairobi yesterday.
Kenyatta said the EAC Summit (head of states) and his government were committed to the integration agenda as evidenced by accelerated approach toward the development of infrastructure, among others.
Among others, Kenyatta reiterated that the standard gauge railway (SGR), which, a few years back was just a pipe-dream, was now a reality.
“There is increased focus towards the development of the Northern Corridor. There are also plans to develop oil and gas pipeline from Uganda through Turkana (Kenya) to the Port of Mombasa to ease transportation of crude oil and to enhance export of mineral oils,” h said.
The Kenyan leader said it was vital for the Common Market Protocol to be fully implemented and devoid of non-tariff barriers to enable citizens reap the full benefits.
“While the protocol was ratified and came into force almost six years ago, the people of the region are still not enjoying these freedoms,” he said.
EALA Speaker Daniel Kidega said East Africans were interested in seeing more tangible benefits of integration, noting that with the coming into force of the fully-fledged Customs Union it was necessary for goods and services to be transacted within the ambits of the Customs Union Protocol and without barriers.
“It is in this regard that we, as an Assembly, are keenly watching the issue of sugar given that the Customs Union is now fully-fledged and promotes intra-EAC trade. We plead that a divide between politics and integration be wedged,” Kidega said in apparent reference to the dispute surrounding a recent deal between Nairobi and Kampala under which Uganda would easily sell its sugar surplus to Kenya.
With regards to the Common Market Protocol, the Speaker called on the partner states to ensure its full implementation saying that East Africans wanted to enjoy full benefits.
“The Common Market Protocol was entered into in 2010. Yet still today, only few of the EAC citizens would work in another Partner State because they face too many obstacles. The acquisition of work or resident permit is one of the major challenges and the processes need to be harmonised,” Kidega said.