Experts say regional body is ‘club of suspicious people’
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania’s recent call for the evaluation of the East African Community legal instruments to reflect current times has elicited mixed reactions among regional analysts.
When President Suluhu recently met top leaders at the East African Community Secretariat in Dar es Salam on June 12, she said there is need for a comprehensive review of the treaty and other legal instruments to reflect the current times.
Among the dignitaries who paid her a courtesy visit in her office in Tanzania’s commercial city of Dar es Salam were Dr. Peter Mathuki, the Secretary General of the East African Community, Rt. Hon. Martin Ngoga, the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly and Judge President Nestor Kayobera, the head of the East African Court of Justice.
Suluhu noted that the treaty that established the East African Community was put on paper 20 years ago by just three members; Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda but the bloc now has six members including Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. The DR Congo will also hopefully join.
“We therefore need to not only review the Treaty but other instruments as well, to align them with what we have already done, and what we aspire to do,” she said.
She added: “As a community, the partner states are all at different levels of development and our ability to meet our statutory obligations to the EAC vary, we therefore need to look into how this can be addressed so all members are able to meet their obligations.”
Suluhu noted that the East African Community was integral to fast tracking the development of the region, adding that there was a need to review the EAC partner state contribution mechanism, to ensure all members enjoy the benefits of the membership to the regional bloc.
Although Suluhu re-assured the EAC Secretariat delegation of Tanzania’s commitment to the EAC integration, adding that Tanzania was indeed reaping the benefits of the EAC, and is keen to see the community flourish and become a subject of admiration in the regional and international fora, her observation did not go unnoticed in the region.
Suluhu’s comments come at a time when the regional body appears paralyzed by political conflicts between some member states and a lack of commitment towards its goals.
Secretary General Mathuki told Suluhu that the East African Community Organs were committed to working together towards attaining the vision of the community. He said they had resolved to enhance collaboration among member states.
“The partner states want value for money, and value for money is results, we have therefore committed ourselves to join efforts to produce the results as expected by the partner states,” Dr. Mathuki said.
He briefed the president on the need for the region to devise strategies to enhance intra-EAC trade, which currently stands below 15%, if the region is to realise the vision of a prosperous and competitive East Africa.
“Dialogue with the private sector is important to enable us address the various barriers to trade. It is my hope that in the next five years, we shall be recording intra-EAC trade above 50%,” he added.
Mathuki said that to better facilitate regional trade, there is need for the establishment of the EAC Disputes Settlement Mechanism, as provided under Article 24 of the EAC Customs Union Protocol to address all matters pertaining to trade including the Rules of Origin, anti-dumping measures, subsidies and countervailing measures and safeguard measures.
Mathuki further added that while the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected the region, like the rest of the world, there was need for the region to adopt a common approach to mitigate the pandemic and facilitate economic recovery and safe trade.