The Ministry of East African Community affairs will intervene in seeking a common solution to issues of corruption which is said to be a key stumbling block for local traders to conduct business within the bloc.
Rwandan traders decry the prevalent existing corruption and non tariff barriers (NTBs)in other member states, which they say, have not only affected their businesses, but also dogged regional integration.
Traders say that due to graft, larger competitors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are able to sell their products in the country at lower prices, despite associated transport costs, because they enjoy the benefits of economies of scale on top of incurring lower production costs.
The Minister of East African Community affairs Monique Mukaruliza told The New Times that corruption had frustrated their efforts to eliminate NTBs in other member states, which in turn has greatly affected Rwanda mainly because of her status as a landlocked country.
“We are ready to intervene as a ministry and see how we can solve their problems at a regional level,” she said.
“We need to know their problems. They should always come to us and report; it’s our responsibility to ensure that our citizens benefit from regional integration”.
She explained that they would engage all stakeholders, including other member states, to arrive at a common resolution on the challenges affecting the traders.
Though Article 13 of the Customs Union Protocol of the EAC instructs partner states to eliminate all existing NTBs and not impose any new ones, this has allegedly not been the case as other partner states continue to overlook it.
Mukaruliza highlighted that if the EAC good government protocol is ratified, it would also play a significant role in elimination of corruption in the region.
The Protocol is in line with the fundamental principles stipulated in the EAC Treaty under Article 6(d) which emphasises good governance, including adherence to the rule of law, accountability, transparency, respect for human rights and equal opportunities.
The Protocol also includes issues of economic and corporate governance.
The EAC minister underscored that the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) would next year introduce bureaus in all member countries to ensure that members of the public do not necessarily have to travel to Arusha, Tanzania to table their grievances.
Corruption and other related cases, will be petitioned at the said offices.
Rwandan traders claim they mainly encounter corruption and other NTBs along the two major routes that link the country to the East African ports.
They include the Central Corridor which links it to the Dar es Salaam Port and the Northern Corridor to Mombasa via Uganda.