The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, has cautioned regional member states over persistent corruption cases, saying that unless much effort is exerted in purging the vice, the region will remain underdeveloped.
In interview with reporters from the region held yesterday in Bujumbura, Burundi, Sezibera said fighting corruption should not be left to government officials only but citizens should also play a part.
“Corruption is a problem. Fighting corruption is much more than laws and all these agencies and institutions. It should be a culture people must say no to,” he said.
The latest East African Bribery Index 2011 ranked Burundi as the most corrupt nation with a score 37.9 percent, both Uganda and Tanzania stood at 33.9 percent, and Kenya recorded a slight improvement at 28.8 percent, down from 31.9 percent in 2010. while Rwanda scored 5.1 percent, down from 6.6 percent last year.
Rwandan traders recently complained of rampant corruption and non tariff barriers in other EAC member states, which they believe, has not only affected their businesses, but also dogged regional integration.
In 2007, the East Africa Association of the Anti corruption Authority (EAAACA) was formed to promote the spirit of zero tolerance on corruption and encourage regional cooperation in preventing and combating the vice, but its efforts are yet to bear fruit.
According to traders, due to graft, larger competitors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are able to sell their products in Rwanda at lower prices, despite associated transport costs as they enjoy the benefits of economies of scale on top of incurring lower production costs.
“You cannot develop a country with corruption...it’s something we need to fight as regional citizens for the benefit of our community,” Sezibera noted.
He further tipped regional media practitioners on the essence of collaboration with civil societies and other stakeholders to highlight the most corrupt officials as a means of fighting graft.