The debate as to which country should field the next Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) has ruffled a few commentators and enraged those who think the current arguments are uncalled for, given the guiding principles within the EAC treaty.
They argue that the bulldozing attitude of the founder member states risks undermining the achievements attained so far, including remarkable strides in the formation of a monetary union and possible political federation in the not-so-far future.
Many have questioned the underlying intentions of wanting to side-step principles of an agreement appended to in broad day light and whose philosophy was not forced down the throats of our leaders.
I will not speak on behalf of Burundi (though it is equally competent to field a candidate) but rather for Rwanda. Ever-since Kigali officially signed the EAC treaty to join the regional bloc, it is and has always been technically and politically ready to field a candidate for this top EAC job.
The argument advanced by our brothers in which they describe Rwanda and Burundi as ‘new comers’ and therefore technically ‘incompetent or immature’ to run the affairs of the community is in bad taste and risks violating the spirit of the EAC charter.
Let’s talk principles here. Article 67 of the EAC treaty sets the record straight --‘the Secretary General shall be appointed by the summit upon nomination by the relevant Head of State under the principle of rotation.”
This principle is precise and clear. The SG is appointed on a rotational basis--- Kenya, Uganda and now Tanzania have had their chance.
When on 18th June 2007, Rwanda and Burundi appended to that treaty in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, they did not become partial or part-time members. They became full members of the community enjoying an equal status and equal powers.
That is why, based on the same principle of rotation, President Paul Kagame served as the chair of the EAC Heads of State and today, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza is serving his term. Why wasn’t the excuse of ‘new comer or inexperience’ raised at that time?
Gentlemen if we are talking principles, then they must be accorded the due respect they deserve.
In the same spirit, article 132 of the treaty provides the provisions for making financial contributions to run the Arusha based secretariat. It states, unequivocally, that partner countries must make an equal financial contribution on annual basis. There’s no special package or special percentage for the ‘older members’ and the ‘new members.’
It places every member state on an equal footing and hence sets the record for eligibility to vie for any positions within the bloc.
Ever since 2007, Rwanda has religiously made its contribution. If it’s a question of being ‘new entrants or inexperienced’, why was there no ‘passionate heart’ for these new members (with smaller economies) and probably put a provision within the treaty that requires them to make partial payments or better still, a grace period until when they are mature enough to make full payments. Why does this argument of ‘new comers’ arise at the time of appointing an SG?
During the time Rwanda chaired the community, it steered the bloc forward and one of the key achievements was handing over the chair after a customs union protocol was duly signed. Why then, would running the secretariat be an uphill task?
After all, it’s not the first time a Rwandan will be at the helm of a strategic institution. At the African Development Bank (AfDB), a Rwandan has turned round that institution, sharpening its mission of becoming the premier development finance institution on the continent.
In Sudan, a Rwandan youthful General is doing a commendable job of commanding the UNAMID that is helping bring peace to the troubled Darfur region. At the WTO, a Rwandan lady is the Deputy Director General and leading crucial stages in the Doha development agenda negotiations.
If it has worked out elsewhere, why not at the EAC Secretariat?
There’s one value our brothers need to know about today’s Rwanda and its people. Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, the word ‘failure’ does not exist in our vocabulary. If a Rwandan is given the opportunity to run any office, especially a strategic one like the EAC secretariat, he/she is under the scrutiny of the 10 million Rwandans. More precise, he/she is under the watchful eye of the top leadership of this country. You fail to deliver; you simply dig your own grave.
In other words, you cannot afford to betray the confidence and trust because President Kagame would not hesitate to recall a poor performer instead of risking the reputation of his country.
This is why today’s EAC Secretariat, at critical moments of forging ahead, needs a leadership with a strong political backing. It needs a steadfast leadership that is able to drive forward the community into its two next crucial stages of integration; a monetary union and eventually, a political unification.
Therefore, we need not lose time engaging in trivial debates as to which country fields the next Secretary General. EAC’s treaty under article 67 is very clear on this and provides the guidelines. Rwanda is ready!