A Rwandan member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has called on all member states to hoist the East African Community (EAC) flag in all public institutions and sing the EAC anthem during public events.
MP Martin Ngoga, a member of the EALA Commission, the principal committee of the Assembly, said this Monday, adding that the move is part of a new effort to depen regional integration in a people-centred manner.
“The point of view of parliament (EALA) is that we are going to encourage Rwanda and Burundi to also take steps in that direction,” Ngoga said in an interview.
This follows a directive by the government of Kenya last week urging all public institutions to hoist the EAC flag and that the EAC anthem be sang at public events.
“These decisions; flying the EAC flag and singing the EAC anthem in public events, in a continuous, sustainable, compulsory manner may have an appearance of being merely symbolic but its essence is to make people feel the need to own the integration processes we are involved in.”
Among others, schools in Kenya will be required to hoist the EAC flag and sing the EAC Anthem – Wimbo wa Jumuiya Afrika Mashariki, a three-stanza composition in Kiswahili – alongside the Kenyan flag and national anthem.
Tanzania and Uganda were the first to implement similar directives.
Ngoga explained that as lawmakers and other stakeholders continue sensitising EAC citizens on integration, the integration agenda remains an “elitist thing” confined largely in the corridors of power.
“Citizens are benefiting as we move forward, but the level of understanding and knowledge about the entire process is still minimal,” he said.
“It is people that are going to defend it (integration) and it is people that are going to sustain it. This is one of the way we can avoid the mistakes of the past.”
Repeated attempts to get comment from the Ministry of EAC Affairs on the matter were futile but Ngoga stressed that they “will push” to see Rwanda follow in the footsteps of other partner states.
He said, “And not just about the anthem and flag, but also other processes that actually bring us closer to other Partner States.”
Speaking to The New Times, Deputy Speaker Abbas Mukama, said the idea of EAC’s Anthem to be sung in public events is good and needs to be supported.
“This hasn’t come to the floor of Parliament for debate but I guess it would be better if such a decision was reached after being adopted by the Summit (of Heads of State) as a common decision, or if it comes from EALA or the ministries of EAC affairs and is a common decision.”