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New NGO steps into Rwanda, Uganda conflict

Emmanuel Elau, a lawyer and lecturer of East African Community law at Uganda Christianity University (UCU) said the region needs lawyers well-versed with regional integration legal principles as East African nations look for ways of harmonisation at many levels. He said it is one of the ways of bringing down the integration process to the citizens.

Many speakers saw the conference as an opportunity to brainstorm on a way forward on the tiff between Museveni and Kagame. The two have traded accusations of plotting to destabilise each other’s governments. Many expressed concern that the two leaders appeared fixed on talking tough instead of pursuing reconciliation. Many spoke of the need for arbitration.

It was pointed out that it is ironic that two of its members are just shy of declaring war on each other; the EAC is short of solutions. It cannot intervene. The EAC institutions, including the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) appear toothless.

“Why aren’t businessmen going to the court?” Bakayana asked. What advantages would they get from going to Arusha – the seat of the court? His answer: Businesspeople do not want their time to be wasted in lengthy court processes.

Bakayana also queried the behavior of some of the EAC countries.

“When you look at the laws coming from Tanzania, you get concerned,” he said, “They are inward looking and are all about ‘protect Tanzania’.

Uganda’s southern neighbor has gained notoriety for its protectionist tendencies in the last few years.

He also criticised national trade programmes such as Uganda’s Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) which he dubbed a protectionist policy and demanded, instead for laws that facilitate integration.

The issue of protectionism was heavily debated as some speakers insisted it as an initiative of individual countries moving on their own.

“A little protectionism is not bad,” Ivan Ojakol, a regional integration and international trade lawyer, working with KTA Advocates, said. He cited the principle of variable geometry under Article 7 of the EAC Treaty that allows partner states to progress with integration activities at different paces.

Ojakol said whereas there is an arbitration revolution on the African continent, its use in majority of East Africans still lags behind in spite of it being provided for at the EACJ.

“People should embrace arbitration because it is cheaper and faster,” he said. But then he watered down the effort in his next utterance.

“But there is a lack of proper and specialist training for both lawyers and judges on arbitration,” he said, “and clients do not trust both the entire process.”

Economic implications

While presenting a paper on the economic implications of the East African integration, journalist and economic commentator Andrew Mwenda said whereas integration is a popular idea globally, integration works best for richer countries and tends to work against poorer nations.

“In the EAC, investors will flock to Kenya at the expense of the rest mostly because it is the largest economy in the bloc,” he said.

Mwenda also disputed the theory usually promoted by President Museveni that growth of economies of African states lags behind because of a small population.

“The President always argues that we need a bigger market for each other but what is more crucial is purchasing power not population,” he argued.

But other speakers said size matters and a critical population mass is the key.

Patrick Kaboyo, the MD of Alpha Capital Partners; a Ugandan financial services firm that specialises in sovereign asset management, said having the region as one big market would lead to increased productivity.

“Integration leads to increased trade and an integrated approach for one market facilitates full movement of all factors of production,” Kaboyo said, “if these factors are efficiently allocated, there will definitely be increased productivity.

He cited examples like the Standard Gauge Railway under construction as fruits of integration and better bargaining power of 174 million people- the total population of the EAC.

Citing more benefits from the perspective of capital markets, Kaboyo revealed that the East African region was the top destination for private equity funds with a total of $2billion for the year ending June 2018.

“These investors were targeting East Africa as a regional bloc,” he said.

Putting all bickering aside, be it between EAC leaders or speakers at the conference, it was established that a number of legal and other complexities make the integration process a difficult one.

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3 comments

  1. Saddened Ugandan

    What if we spent our precious time and resources on more worthy things than pretending that us Africans might one day be willing and able to unite in any way? I’m not an Afropessimist, just a realist… EAC is a joke that stopped being funny long time ago (same with useless AU). Maybe it’s time to let it go?

  2. Atleast good way of over coming the conflict should be revised

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