Government and civil society officials have agreed to organise regular platforms where the Ministry of East African Community Affairs and civil society groups can meet to enhance a people-centered regional integration approach.
This was recommended, yesterday, during the first such gathering in Kigali.
The consultative forum, themed: ‘‘Engagement of the Rwandan civil society in the East African Community integration”, intended to, among others, introduce the local civil society fraternity to the EAC integration agenda and identify areas that require further awareness.
During the meeting, the Minister for East African Community Affairs Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, asked for the initiative to be formalised with meetings scheduled once in a year.
Rugwabiza said: “But it should not simply be about meeting to talk only as it should also be a forum for accountability, so that we look at the progress of things we had agreed on earlier.”
The purpose of the forum was to set appropriate mechanisms for continuous active involvement of the Rwanda Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in EAC integration efforts and thus be able to tap available opportunities.
The forum explored ways to ensure people’s participation in the bloc’s integration agenda as directed by the 16th EAC Council of Ministers’ meeting.
Dr Venuste Karambizi, an International Relations lecturer at Kigali Independent University, suggested that civil society should have a proper accountability system.
“Regarding the integration agenda, we in the civil society are ready and are skilled. What the government can help us with in terms of regional integration is to communicate to us the urgent areas of integration. You [government] are the ones who know the key areas requiring our involvement. But you should also help us get the means required to implement things and we report back and be accountable,” Karambizi said.
Anaclet Nsanzumuhire, of the Association Rwandaise pour la Promotion du Développement Intégré (ARDI) stressed that civil society groups can help in advancing the integration agenda.
Eric Mahoro, the secretary general of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, emphasised the importance of coordination of civil society activities.
“Like all other associations involved with the intergration agenda, we should find a common ground in various umbrellas and in the Civil Society Platform so that we put ideas together. This doesn’t necessarily have to affect the independence and diversity of the various organisations. But we must have a coordinated way of entering the EAC integration process.”