Discussions on the regional integration process within the East African Community, (EAC), are proceeding at various levels of the regional bloc.
Civil society organizations, gathering in Arusha, Tanzania, are currently discussing mechanisms for their increased participation within the bloc.
If taken to be citizens or people’s representatives, the discussions by the organizations, represented in Arusha, today, will go a long way in deepening the democratic foundations of the bloc.
There is always need to engage all stakeholders on issues of regional integration, as they concern all the citizens within the EAC bloc.
It is about policies to do with their right to free movement within the bloc in as much as it is about other decisions that will be made on their behalf by the Legislative Assembly and the Executive.
Inclusive decision-making will therefore be for the best of all stakeholders within the region, making their input important.
However, there should be caution as to what defines civil society within the region; issues to do with its mandate, areas of focus and the kind of contribution that will be made in the development of bloc, etc.
So often, fly by night brief-case NGO’s, make noises purporting to be people’s representatives, yet the only narrow connection between them and the so called ‘people’ are donor funds.
While issues of legitimacy are thrown at governments, in particular here in Africa, some civil society groups often get away with murder.
It is in this vein that as the EAC secretariat, led by, Juma Mwapachu, engage with the over a 100 delegates, in Arusha, parameters be set as to what defines civil society, including setting a clear mandate for them that should also be respected by the blocs member states.
Civil society can be a vital pillar for the regional bloc, it is therefore hoped that the Arusha discussions bear fruit.