The minister of East African Affairs, Monique Mukaruriza, has said that the US$3.48 million (Rwf 2 billion) grant received from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) will be used to foster Economic Partnership Agreements between the East African Community and the European Union.
This comes after members of the East African Legislative Assembly disapproved the move arguing that it could weaken the bargaining power and compromise the ongoing talks since the donor is a member of the EU bloc that is engaged in the negotiations.
However, EAC Heads of State overruled the idea opting to use the fund to revive the talks and speed up negotiations which have been hampered by several deadlocks in the past.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Mukaruriza said that the negotiations need immediate funding; and therefore, the grant would not be channelled to other development activities but rather serve negotiation purposes.
“Since we started the negotiations, some of the funding has been coming from the EU. This grant will not slow the negotiations but rather empower our negotiators and improve our position,” Mukaruriza said.
“The Secretariat will hold talks with SIDA to see if both parties are on the same page. After that, the grant will be dispersed to the EAC states to facilitate the negotiations.”
According to experts, EALA’s move had threatened to further delay the talks after the regional Council of Ministers indicated that partner states may have to draw funds from their limited national budgets to fund the negotiations.
Both EAC and EU agreed to finalise the negotiations by December 2011.