President Yoweri Museveni and Speaker Anita Among have made a case for the political integration of the East African Community.
Speaking at the induction of members of parliament on the Parliamentary Forum on East African Community Affairs at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, Museveni said countries that are willing to politically federate should do so without the long wait for the undecided.
“If people were listening to me, we would have had a federation long ago; it is not correct for those who have a problem [with political federation] to veto those who want to move,” the President said.
He said integration is a guarantee of the region’s security and hailed the Parliamentary Forum on EAC Affairs led by MP Dickson Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) as a step in the right direction in having leaders involved in integration.
“Unite in order to create prosperity for your people and also for strategic security; I am very glad that you have formed this group…this is a matter of survival,” said Museveni blaming bureaucrats in the region and a section of the political actors for the stalled political integration.
Speaker Among, in a speech read by the Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, cited non-tariff barriers as a torpedo of integration, calling upon member states to eliminate the same in line with East African Community Common Market Protocols.
“As some of you may know, there is existence of non-tariff barriers which pose a hindrance to the EAC integration processes; there is need to remove them to facilitate cross-border trade and opportunities in the region,” she said.
The domestication of the East African Legislative Assembly Acts, said Speaker Among, is an important enabler of integration, which Parliament will be eagerly spearhead.
“…the other important area for urgent attention is ensuring domestication and implementation of laid down Acts of the East African Legislative Assembly; many useful observations and recommendations are made in EAC Committee reports…all of you should be reassured that these will be taken forward,” she said.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, in his remarks, urged President Museveni to consider with his fellow heads of state, the idea of having East African Legislative Assembly representatives as Ex-Officio MPs in their respective countries, which he said will create a better reporting mechanism on the progress of the East African Community.
Fiery orator, Prof Patrick Lumumba of Kenya said the EALA representatives should in future be directly elected by the people to “animate the masses on the idea of the East African federation.”
He also described the EAC as “a body that stands up in the air but is not firm in the hearts and minds of the people.”
Prof Lumumba encouraged President Museveni to personally ensure the community federates in his lifetime.
EALA Speaker, Hon. Martin Ngoga said the EAC is performing well compared to other regional blocks urging the leadership to continue with the efforts to politically integrate.
“The community we have today is performing well; it is ranked as the best performing regional block…because we are the best structured in infrastructure to take the community forward; we are the most ambitious,” he said.
Hon. Kateshumbwa said it is about time the region stops bragging about strategic advantages and actually utilize them for integration.