This week, the East African Community (EAC) will hold the first ever Regional meeting of Political Parties in Nairobi, Kenya. The New Times’ Senior Reporter Gashegu Muramira, interacted with the EAC Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation) Beatrice Kiraso on the objectives of the meeting and success the bloc has registered so far in achieving a Political Federation.
Below are the excerpts:
TNT: on Thursday 15 – September 2011, the EAC will hold a regional meeting of political parties in Nairobi, how will this help lead to efforts of achieving a political federation?
Political parties are key stakeholders in political integration process especially given the fact that all the five EAC countries are multi-party democracies. We cannot talk about a regional government and therefore a president and cabinet and parliament if political parties are not on board.
Another important role they can play if they can be made to appreciate this responsibility is to ensure peaceful political electoral processes as a conflict prevention measure thereby improving on stability and human security in East Africa.
We have also realized that political parties in East Africa with the exception of one out of the 158 do not talk about the East African integration in their manifestos or during their campaigns.
How many participants are you expecting at the event?
We expect about 200 participants from political parties and others from the Electoral Commissions, Security Agencies as well as offices which register these political parties.
These other participants will enrich the debate on issues of registration, internal party democracy, parties’ conduct during and after elections as well as their role in peace building.
There is still a problem of political parties not looking beyond their national borders, are we looking at a future where they will be able to identify their counterparts with ideological semblance and vision?This is the first time political parties are accorded this opportunity, so we hope that it will be the beginning of a long process of forming regional political parties.
We indeed want political parties to start looking beyond their boarders and to realize that national political parties cannot favorably compete at regional level without branches in other countries.
Is the EAC still on track to achieving a political federation within its set time limits?
I would comfortably say that the efforts to achieve a Political Federation for East Africa are in high gear and as the Community awaits a firm decision from Summit in November, 2011 on the way forward in terms of the legal mechanisms a number of activities are on-going.
In the area of political integration, we have finalized protocols in foreign policy coordination, peace and security, defence and we are about to conclude the one on good governance.
Along with these instruments, we continue to sensitize the different stakeholders with a view of mobilizing political will from as many East Africans as possible.
The region envisages one single constitution, will this also help in the harmonization of term limits issue?
On the part of the Secretariat, we commissioned a study which will inform the process when the time comes. But from the side of the decision making organs we have not been given the mandate to discuss harmonization of constitutions.
It is a sensitive matter, so I cannot speculate on how soon and how far we will go, but clearly unless we have one East African Constitution there cannot be an East African Political Federation.
How far have efforts to form a sectoral council on political affairs reached?
The meeting of Council has been ongoing on-going, my department has been asked to prepare a background paper which will include the Terms of Reference for the Sectoral Council.
This is a positive development; I believe there won’t be resistance to the establishment of this Sectoral Council as it is very key to the process towards the ultimate goal, the East African Political Federation.
Sudanese President, Omar Al Bashir has written to the chairperson of the EAC Summit, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, expressing interest to have his country join the bloc, won’t the admission of both Sudans (south and North) derail the political federation ambition?
The entry of any country into the Community is on “as-is” basis. Presently I am not aware of any process that is on-going towards the admission of either Northern or Southern Sudan. I believe when the time comes the issue will be appropriately addressed.