A four-member team from the East African Legislative Assembly has just concluded a fact-finding mission in Rwanda that sought to assess the progress the country had made towards aligning its laws with the protocols it ratified within the framework of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.
Similar missions were undertaken in the other EAC partner states as the assembly stepped up efforts to eliminate legal barriers to the achievement of a truly integrated East Africa.
Overall, the delegation found that Rwanda had made significant gains as far as ensuring that its laws conform to the spirit and provisions of the EAC legal regimen, thanks, in large part, to the existing political will to promote regional integration and the fact that the country has recently conducted a raft of legal and institutional reforms that provided the opportunity to accelerate the process to harmonise national laws with the EAC integration agenda.
As many as 600 laws across the bloc are said to be in need of urgent review to facilitate the implementation of the regional economic community’s common market goals, and these include legislations governing contracts, immigration, labour and employment, insolvency, sale of goods, and intellectual property.
The process to harmonise partner states’ laws has often been frustrating with an EAC report, released in March, citing lack of a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the nations undertake the reforms as required.
That EALA has taken steps to assess each member state’s efforts in meeting these obligations shows renewed impetus in the assembly’s oversight role and this momentum must be sustained if the bloc is to achieve its ultimate objective.
But the process should not stop at compiling reports and decrying challenges that exist. Rather, the assembly should come up with concrete recommendations to individual member states with clear timeframe within which this harmonisation process must be concluded
Above all, this oversight should not be limited to the legal reforms front. The lawmakers must also consistently scrutinise actions by individual member states that contravene their national and EAC laws as far as integration is concerned.
And violations must not only attract verbal condemnation but rather strong action with view to protect the agenda of the Community and the interests of the people of East Africa.
EAC partner states must be held accountable, otherwise the bloc will not achieve its ultimate agenda.