Members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) should work closely with the government to help ensure smooth and faster integration with the rest of the East African Community (EAC).
The call was made Thursday by the Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Affairs (MINEACOM), Francois Kanimba, during a consultative meeting that brought together officials from the ministry, Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), and the CSOs operating in the country.
The meeting aimed at sensitising the civil society about the integration process and identifying areas that require further awareness and deepening understanding of the importance of conducting integration activities.
It also aimed at understanding the regulatory framework that facilitates the bottom-up approach, from grassroots to the EAC level.
Kanimba said CSOs have closer interactions with citizens and link them to the government through advocacy making them a critical element to involve in EAC activities and in smooth and faster integration process.
He added that it was a principle for the EAC that the citizen voices should be heard for better operations and integration.
The minister said that in order for the bloc to be strong, unlike the previous EAC that collapsed in 1977, there was need for citizens involvement and this can easily be done through civil society.
“It was realised that civil society organisations which work closely with the citizens should be the tool to make this successful,” he said.
“One of the things we are vigilant about in this partnership is to ensure that whenever there are issues which can be solved while the citizens are involved it should be done without involving government officials only”.
“We hope that the partnership with the civil society platform and the private sector will boost good governance, fast-track development, fight poverty among citizens as well improve service delivery across EAC,” he added.
According to Lalas Sinyigaya, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, the EAC integration is complex and can only be achieved through collective efforts at all levels.
“Civil society plays a critical, active and meaningful role in shaping the EAC’s processes and programmes in Rwanda. It is in that spirit that civil society in Rwanda has regional integration among its core pillars,” he said.