SUMMIT CHAIR CONVENES HISTORIC MEETING TO USHER “NEW LOOK” EAC
- High Level Retreat adopts “Kigali Spirit” towards a more efficient and effective regional organization -
EAC Headquarters, Arusha, 14 February 2009: A Strategy Retreat for Key Organs and Institutions of the East African Community was held in Kigali, Rwanda at the Serena Hotel on 9-10 February 2009. The Retreat, the first of its kind brought together the top leadership, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Heads and Senior Officials of Government, EAC Organs and Institutions; and representatives of the business community and civil society. The Retreat was convened by H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State of the East African Community who officially opened the Retreat on 9 February.
The Retreat was held against the background of deepening EAC integration with the ongoing operation of the Customs Union, which was established in 2005, and the advanced progress towards the establishment of the Common Market, which is expected to be in place by January 2010. The EAC recognizes the need to constantly keep a step ahead in maintaining harmonious working relations among its organs and institutions to meet the new challenges and expectations of regional integration within the fast evolving world economic and social order.
Over 100 participants attended the Retreat, including Ministers, Members of the EAC Council of Ministers, the Speaker and Members of the East African Legislative Assembly, Judge President, Principal Judge, Registrar and Senior Officers of the East African Court of Justice; the Secretary General and Deputies Secretary General of the East African Community, Heads of the EAC Institutions ( Inter-University Council for East Africa, Lake Victoria Basin Commission, East African Development Bank, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization and the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency) , Senior Government and EAC officials; representatives of the business community and civil society; and the Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
The Strategy Retreat with the theme “Collaborative Work Culture in the EAC organs and institutions for a Stronger East Africa”, focused on a review of the current operations of the EAC organs and institutions, sharing of views and insights on their effectiveness against their mandates under the EAC Treaty, which was signed in 1999; and drawing of lessons from other regional efforts in terms of collaborative work ethic among the EAC organs and institutions and between them and the Partner States.
In his Keynote Address to the Retreat, H.E. President Kagame said the vision of regional integration was a voluntary and dedicated political partnership based on pragmatic building blocks and time-bound milestones and targets. He said the organs and institutions of the Community should strive to improve their collaboration and strengthen their sense of shared purpose to perform better, individually and collectively, in order to realize the benefits of regional integration. He said that among the benefits of regional integration were larger markets, economies of scale, larger pools of human, financial, and physical capital. East Africa, he said, had the advantages of a rich legacy of socioeconomic, political and cultural interactions. He said these advantages should be consolidated by strong, first rate formal institutions embracing a learning attitude, continuously internalizing new knowledge, innovation and good practices to drive the East African integration process.
At the conclusion of the Retreat, the delegates made far reaching observations and recommendations under what they dubbed the “Kigali Spirit” that would guide the operations of the EAC organs and institutions to a more rapidly achieving regional organization in the new era.
In their recommendations, the delegates emphasized the need for a re-affirmation of commitment to the spirit of regional integration requiring deliberate efforts by the EAC Partner States, organs and institutions as well as civil society and business community to prioritize the regional integration agenda within their respective national agendas.
The delegates called for a professional and ethical re-orientation of the EAC establishment to build an East African spirit among the staff of the East African Community. The delegates proposed the establishment of an EAC Public Service Commission, EAC Parliamentary Service Commission and EAC Judicial Service Commission. They proposed the introduction of standard terms of service for staff of all the organs and institutions of the Community and institution of a system of motivation and rigorous performance evaluation of staff on the basis of undivided loyalty to the Community and contribution to the realization of its vision and mission.
The delegates called for streamlining and strengthening of internal and external communications of the EAC to involve systematic, continuous consultations among the Heads of the organs and institutions of the Community and structured regular meetings to plan, review, monitor, and coordinate their programmes and exchange views on the implementation of the regional projects and programmes. They proposed the establishment of a strengthened central public information and communications office at the EAC Secretariat that would coordinate dynamic public information flow from the organs and institutions of the Community, utilizing advanced communication media, including print and electronic media and the Internet.
The delegates proposed measures to ensure effective implementation of EAC decisions and to this extent the need to set up regional mechanism for monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of EAC Council of Ministers decisions at the regional and national levels; monitoring and evaluation of implementation of EAC Acts passed by EALA at the national levels; and establishment of clear political leadership and responsibility for regional projects and programmes by clarifying the role of the Council of Ministers , including assigning specific portfolios to the Members of the EAC Council of Ministers.
On Budget issues, the delegates proposed urgent review from the current system whereby of equal contribution by Partner States and over-reliance on external funding of regional projects to a more sustainable and self reliant sourcing of funds for regional projects and programmes.
The delegates resolved to sustain the “Spirit of Kigali” and, to this extent, proposed that the EAC Strategy Retreat be institutionalized into an annual event and include holding of quarterly meetings of the Heads of EAC organs and institutions, biannual meetings of the Heads of the organs and institutions of the Community with the Chairperson of the Summit; and establishment of a Task Force to follow up the implementation of the recommendations of the Kigali Retreat. The full report and recommendations of the Kigali Retreat will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and Summit of Heads of State for consideration and decisions.
With all this I am more puzzled and engulfed with questions and doubts as to the implications of the meeting. It seems more observations, recommendations, and propositions were made with no counterweight in substance to really address the nature of the meeting. While this was honorable gesture of having solidarity for common goals and a show of some level of commitment, I wonder when will we be able to come to grips with the peripheral issues that need to be at the forefront before all this can really be full scale and operational!
How can we have integration without uniformity of just the basic methods of governance? What can be implemented without the proper authority with effective power to actually execute those implementation since each country is more or less looking to it's own benefits and not responsibilities? And I also wonder if there's a misplaced commitment to the things that even though are important to the whole idea, are being neglected by other member states for the sake of appeasement and coexistance, for example Rwanda and Uganda involvement in DRC?
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