NAIROBI - The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) yesterday continued deliberations on the state of the EAC address by President Paul Kagame with lawmakers raising concern over delayed implementation of regional programmes.
The fifth meeting of the second session of EALA is convening at the Kenya National Assembly, Nairobi, to discuss among other issues, Kagame’s speech in his capacity as the current Chairperson of the East African Community (EAC) Summit.
Janet Mmari (Tanzania) started the debate when she moved a motion that the House commends President Kagame for the concise exposition of the EAC policy contained in the State of the EAC address to the assembly late last month.
Thereafter, different speakers commended the President for the policy statement he made which they said clearly outlines the direction EAC should be taking, but had been hindered by organs that have failed to execute critical decisions in implementing programmes.
Daniel Wandera Ogalo (Uganda) amused the House when he carried a list showing programmes that the regional bloc has not implemented, some dating back to 2007.
“There must be a very big problem because the speech by the President was mostly highligting lack of implemention. Why is implementation a problem?,” he asked rhetorically.
While reading programmes that have surpassed their deadlines, the legislator said that the EAC had failed to live up to the objectives it set in its four-year strategic plan for 2006-2010.
“Some of these are; Implementation of regional customs procedures by June 2008, and estabilishing one EAC customs authority by July 2008. We are behind schedule in almost everything and we are failing in almost everything we set ourselves to do,” Ogalo said.
Among key areas of the President’ address to the assembly was the state of infrastructure in East Africa, which he said is derailing the region’s trade and investment competitiveness.
Ogalo pointed out that other programmes included; the establishment of an EAC Examination Council by December 2007, harmonising investment incentives by December 2007, and issuing of national identity cards in Uganda and Tanzania by December 2008.
He warned that the EAC strategic plan of 2006-2010 is a public document and that any East African who reads it would say; “these people are not serious.”
Catherine Ngima Kumura (Kenya) voiced the President’s concerns on the region’s poor infrastructure and said that it is shameful that East Africa is up to now still relying on the railway network the British built in the 1800s that links Mombasa to the hinterland.
“The railway they started at that time is the one we are still enyoying today. No further development has occured, and how can we think of competing with the European world?” She said.
She called for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in developing regional infrastructure without necesarily engaging in privatisation and concessions advising the region to borrow a leaf from success stories of countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
“It is my appeal to the Council of Ministers to put the secreatariat on their toes to start working on infrastructure development. We share the frustration the Chairman has at the railway masterplan and other slow programmes. We must therefore stop crawling, but walk and later run,” Kimura said.
Patricia Hajabakiga (Rwanda) said that despite the fact that all the money needed for construction of the EAC headquarters having been disboursed, the project’s implementation had stalled.
Reacting to the President’s concerns that the global financial crisis would not spare the region, Hajabakiga challenged the Council to explore other avenues through which the regional bloc can raise funds other than waiting for contributions from partner states and international donors.
On Kagame’s call for the introduction of a single tourist visa in the region for competitiveness of the tourism sector, Nusura Tiperu (Uganda) added that there is also need for a single visa for traders entering East Africa, adding that this would reduce on the current bureaucracies.
The lawmakers will today hold joint forum discussions with the African Youth Trust (AYT) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC).