The just concluded East African Community (EAC) conference on Good Governance in Nairobi, Kenya, saw senior ministers, heads of governance institutions including human rights, law enforcement, prosecution, anti-corruption agencies and electoral commissions from the region meet to come to a consensus that would seal the many gaps that obstruct integration at national level.
Using the analogy of, ‘’Your Brother’s Keeper’’ borrowed from the Bible in reference to Cain and Abel, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in Charge of Political Federation, Beatrice Kiraso, said that the answer to all these problems that occur at national level lies in deeper political integration.
The conference was the second of its kind, the first having been held last year in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
It is an annual event where partner states of the EAC examine, in an honest and transparent manner, their stand on enforcing international standards of good governance.
The EAC Partner States have signed and ratified a number of instruments, but the problem of weak implementation has persisted.
The EAC Protocol on Good Governance unpacks the fundamental principals enshrined in the Treaty under Article 6.
It boldly addresses Governance issues under the four pillars namely, Democracy and Democratization processes; Human Rights and Equal Opportunities; Anti-Corruption, Ethics and Integrity; and Rule of Law and Access to Justice and puts a lot of emphasis on ‘separation of powers’.
The draft Protocol will receive inputs from a wide range of stakeholders at national level including local authorities, religious leaders, higher institutions of learning, the academia and researchers, political parties and parliamentarians.
So far the Forum of Chief Justices, some civil society organisations and members of parliament (MPs) have given specific comments that greatly enriched the first draft.
Some aspects of the draft Good Governance Protocol will require amendment of national constitutions.
Kiraso states, “If this is the process that will lead to one country called East Africa, there should be no problem in amending constitutions to achieve a large extent of similarity.’’
Issues that have been identified so far include term limits, real separation of powers whereby MPs constitute the Legislature while Ministers comprise the Executive.
Additionally, there is a proposal to have two-Chamber Houses, added the EAC senior official.
Kiraso said that the newly promulgated constitution of Kenya already provides for all these, while in Burundi and Rwanda Ministers are not MPs though they do have the national parliament and the Senate.
In Tanzania, the debate about separating the Executive from the Legislature is gaining ground especially among the academia and scholars.
Strong recommendations that came out of the Nairobi Conference include the need for partner states to expeditiously conclude the consultations on empowering the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) by extending its jurisdiction beyond mere interpretation of the Treaty, but give it powers to try cases of regional nature, including impunity and human rights related issues.
Partner States will also need to place Governance issues higher on their agenda, demonstrating this through increased budgetary allocations to expedite administration of justice and enhancing accountability at all levels.
The provision for social services, human security and economic development as an integral part of the governance process was acknowledged.
The objectives of the conference were to enhance cross-sectoral political dialogue among institutions responsible for promoting Good Governance in the region, borrow international best practices; identifying gaps and means of strengthening them to propel integration process but also to trace the synergies among such related sectors.
Presentations made by experts included identifying opportunities and challenges in administration of justice and upholding the rule of law, promoting and protection of human rights, combating corruption, upholding prudent democratization processes including elections, role of media and how all these relate to peace, stability and development.
The regional ministers who attended the two-day meeting included those within Justice, Constitutional Affairs, EAC Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Security and Governance.
The EACJ and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) were joined in the conference by national court judges and parliamentarians, directors of public prosecution, heads of electoral commissions and human rights commissioners, ombudsman and anti-corruption agencies and several civil society organizations, among others.
However, it was agreed that national parliaments would need more involvement in the development of regional governance instruments to bring their constituents on board. This was welcomed as it would be in line with the people-centreness of the East African Community.