Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said citizens of the region are yearning to freely move, work and enjoy the tangible benefits of integration.
This, Kenyatta said, can only be attained if East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) consolidated its work for the furtherance of the integration process.
The Kenyan president, who was addressing a special sitting of the Assembly in Nairobi, yesterday, urged stakeholders in the integration dispensation to go the extra mile and create awareness to the citizens of the region, emphasising the need for citizens of the region to be fully aware of the integration process.
This role, he added, should be undertaken by both politicians and the ordinary people as well.
“We who are convinced of the imperative of integration must communicate it better to our people. Too often, the integration of East Africa is taken to be merely a political matter - a job for politicians, not ordinary people. True, leaders must lead. But we have failed to spark the imaginations of East Africans when it comes to integration,” Kenyatta said.
He maintained that the Summit of EAC Heads of State was committed to ensuring the region’s infrastructure is improved for the betterment of their lives.
“Some of you will recall that several of my brothers came to the signing and witnessing of agreements for the standard gauge railway, some time ago.
“Earlier this month, my brother President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania visited Kenya to commission the Taveta-Arusha road. These projects are representative of the hard work that has gone into knitting the nations of the community together by road, rail and air,” Kenyatta said.
He lauded the Assembly for its enhanced performance and challenged them to go the extra mile in realising its mandate.
“A key issue if I may speak directly to the Assembly, is on performance. Your mandate ends soon. In the last few months, under the wise leadership of Speaker Daniel Kidega, you have done much: new Bills, reports, and resolutions have flowed at a steady pace. But we would all like to see you leave a legacy; a set of measures that will be remembered as long as this Community lasts,” the President said.
On sustainability matters, Kenyatta was emphatic that direct funding of the Assembly would strengthen the capacity for EALA to deliver its mandate.
Kenyatta also gave a nod to the request by the EALA Speaker to change the mode of Assent of Bills from the rotational mode to be a function on the sidelines of the Summit of EAC Heads of States meeting in order to enhance efficiency.
“Leaders must create the laws, the institutions, and the framework that will help us face that future together as a region. Kenya will play its part in that great task,” President Kenyatta said.
Speaker Kidega noted that East Africans were interested in seeing more tangible benefits of integration.
He called on the partner states to ensure full implementation of the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocols, stating that bureaucrats in governments were causing unnecessary red tape in the processes.
“Whereas there is political goodwill and commitment to strengthen integration, citizens in the region continue to demand to see the tangible benefits. Somewhere along the way, there is always some disconnect of some form.
As politicians, we sometimes see the technocrats in government as the persons hindering progress by instigating red tape and unnecessary bureaucracies,” Kidega said.
The Speaker called on the Summit of EAC Heads of State, due Saturday in Nairobi, to intervene to ensuring the institutional review of the EAC is finalised.
Since the session began last week, the Assembly has successfully debated and enacted the EAC Electronic Transactions Bill, 2014, which paves way for the growth of e-Transactions in the region by enabling the corporate world and the public sector to transact business using the digital means in a safe and secure environment.
The EAC Forest Management and Protection Bill and the EAC Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Bill are expected to be passed before the EALA sitting ends today.