President Paul Kagame has called on East African Community (EAC) partner states to remain ambitious for the region’s shared vision and goal and do more to foster unity in the region.
The President made the remarks during the 17th extraordinary EAC Heads of State Summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, yesterday.
Calling on the EAC countries to continue to work closely, Kagame said that the Community makes individual countries stronger than they are when working separately.
“We need to remain ambitious about our shared vision for East Africa and continue to challenge ourselves to do more and better,” he said.
In the spirit of shared prosperity and unity, he said that decisions made by the bloc should be in favour of prosperity of all partner states.
“This Community makes each of us stronger than we could ever be working individually. The bottom line is that the decisions we make should not make any of us worse off,” the President added.
Kagame welcomed the recent entrant into the bloc, South Sudan, which submitted instruments for ratification on accession to the East African Community Treaty early this week.
In April this year, South Sudan signed the EAC Treaty, formalising the country’s membership to the regional bloc, and increasing the bloc’s population to 162 million people, up from 145.5 million.
Among the items on the summit’s agenda was the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EAC and European Union.
After receiving a report on the progress whereby two partner states (Rwanda and Kenya) have already signed the agreement, the Heads of State requested for three months for clarification on some of the contentious issues among some partner states before considering the signing of the agreement as a bloc.
The three months would allow all partner states to be at par on the way forward in regards to the agreement.
The agreement between the two blocs has been under negotiation since 2007 with an aim to create a deal giving EAC nations duty- and quota-free access to the EU market.
According to a communiqué presented at the end of the Summit, the Heads of State called on the European Union not to penalise Kenya as a result.
If the agreement is not signed by September 30, Kenya stands to lose its access to the European Union market as it is not grouped among least developed countries like her EAC partners who would still be granted duty free access to the EU for all products except arms and ammunition.
The Heads of State directed the Secretariat to communicate to EU on the matter.
The Summit also received a report from former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is the facilitator of Inter-Burundi dialogue.
The Heads of State endorsed all recommendations in regards to dialogue and directed the Council of Ministers to avail a budget for the Inter-Burundi dialogue.
Regarding South Sudan’s membership, the Council of Ministers was tasked to present a roadmap on the new partner’s accelerated integration into the bloc during the next summit to be held in November.
Meanwhile, at yesterday’s summit, Rwanda’s representative to the East African Legislative Assembly, Christophe Bazivamo, was sworn in as deputy EAC Secretary General for a three year term.