KIMIHURURA-President Paul Kagame has called on the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the East African Community Council of Ministers to find mechanisms to initiate laws that will help implement of the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol, so that East African citizens can reap the benefits.
The Head of State made the call, yesterday, at the opening session of the 2nd EALA assembly at the Parliamentary Buildings, noting that over the last 10 years, the people of East Africa have benefited from the integration process, but more needs to be done.
The President pointed out that East African Business people, investors and ordinary citizens still have to deal with non-tariff barriers and obstacles to free movement, across the region, despite signing the two important protocols.
“In the past ten years we have passed and signed important protocols and Partner States have made various commitments with regard to integration. However, in their implementation, we have not moved at the pace our citizens desire,” President Kagame said.
“I believe this Assembly has the right and duty to hold us more accountable in implementing these commitments, so that we deliver in a meaningful way to our citizens.”
Addressing the regional legislators and diplomatic corps, President Kagame said that the East African Community has made important strides over the past years where the EALA, the legislative arm of the bloc, has played an integral role.
Despite the progress, the Head of State pointed out that there is a lot more to do, including, ensuring that the various organs of the community deliver as one, by enhancing cooperation and collaboration with national institutions.
“In the particular case of EALA, this could be achieved through greater collaboration and more linkages with National Parliaments. For instance, it may be useful to hold special joint sessions to debate Community agenda,” Kagame said
“This way, the community will be brought closer to the people for whom it is intended. Equally important, through their elected representatives, they would have a direct contribution and claim ownership of the integration process.”
The Head of State noted that the necessity for the national legislatures to work together and harmonise legislative processes becomes more urgent when the region recognises that laws enacted by EALA supersede national laws of Partner States.
President Kagame said that similarly, there should be greater cooperation among the organs of the community for more efficient implementation of protocols and programmes of the EAC.
President Kagame also expressed concern over periodic droughts, floods, other natural disasters and food shortages, in the region, mainly occasioned by climate change and poor management of the environment.
He urged partner states to prioritise sustainable management of the shared natural resources to avert the effects of climate change, and at the same time develop agricultural policies, practices, and land management systems to ensure food security in the region.
The Head of State emphasised that efforts to fast track the integration process should not be confined to legislative chambers, but should rather be made people-centred through the active participation of EAC Citizens.
According to the EALA Speaker Haithar Abdi-Abdirahin, over the next two weeks, the Assembly will consider important business for the Community, including, the EAC Trans-boundary Ecosystem Bill and the East African Parliamentary Institute Bill.
The legislators will also deliberate on the Election of EALA Members Bill, the EAC Control of Polythene Materials Bill, the EAC Human Rights Bill and debate and adopt various Committee Reports as well as Resolutions of the Assembly.
Abdirahin thanked President Kagame for his “sterling effort” to steer Rwanda to join the EAC fraternity, observing that his stewardship and the commitment of the other Heads of State was a historical decision which gave the EAC a wider market, geographical coverage and stronger negotiation ability.
“We commend you for your continuous support in realising the pillars of integration such as the Customs Union, the Common Market, Negotiations for the Monetary Union and the Political Federation,” Abdirahin said.
“I request you and other Members of the Summit to continue offering wisdom in the process, particularly the last two which, are yet to be concluded.”
The Speaker recognized Rwanda for spearheading women empowerment which is reflected in all structures of the government and other institutions. He thanked Rwanda for hosting the 2nd Assembly.
EALA Members moved a vote of thanks for Rwanda’s strong commitment to regional integration.
The EAC Secretary General, Dr. Richard Sezibera, as well as members of the Council of Ministers attended the opening session.