Parliament has adopted a draft law authorising the ratification of the agreement between the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Rwanda on the readmission of the latter in the regional grouping after a nine-year absence.
Parliament is now expected to scrutinise the draft legal framework before it is passed for presidential assent and subsequent publication into the Official Gazette.
The bill would then be the instrument of ratification to be sent to the Chadian capital Ndjamena, which is the current ECCAS chair, completing the procedure for Rwanda to again be recognised as an ECCAS member state.
Presenting the legal framework to Parliament, on Thursday, Louise Mushikiwabo, the minister for foreign affairs, said Rwanda seeks to achieve its goals in economic and social development, but, most importantly, use the membership as a platform to strengthen regional cooperation and integration.
“Rwanda returns to ECCAS with commitment to joining other member states in transforming the region for economic development and cooperation. We are lucky that we return to ECCAS at a time the regional body is in high spirits as far as reforms is concerned,” Mushikiwabo said.
A founding member of ECCAS in 1983, Rwanda pulled out of the bloc in 2008 to concentrate on its membership to the East African Community (EAC) and Comesa, she added.
Legislators raised questions concerning Rwanda’s membership of various regional communities, including EAC.
“We are now in the East African bloc and are going back to the Central African bloc; I am wondering which bloc our country would be considered part of at the end? Aren’t we committing to many regional communities that in the end would turn to be overwhelming?” MP Emmanuel Mudidi asked.
‘United States of Africa’
Mushikiwabo said Rwanda’s commitment to various regional communities should rather be welcome as it resonates with the dream of a United States of Africa.
“We should not be asking ourselves if we are in East Africa or Central Africa; we are in Africa. Classification depends on who classifies. Regional integration and cooperation should be an avenue leading us into the United States of Africa and that’s what Rwanda believes in,” she said.
Etienne Nkerabigwi, the legal advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Rwanda was recognised by the UN as part of the East African bloc, while some international communities such as the European Union classify Rwanda as part of the Central African bloc.
“There is no problem with that, we are happy to be East or Central... wherever we can contribute or share our interests. The issue should rather be; what do we benefit from or offer to these regional communities?” said Nkerabigwi.
On May 25, the ECCAS summit in Chad welcomed Rwanda back as an ECCAS member.
An agreement was signed confirming the readmission of Rwanda.
But Article 4 of the agreement stipulates that it will enter into force immediately after the instrument of ratification by Rwanda is deposited with the Government of Gabon (depository).