PARTICIPANTS at the fifth East African Community (EAC) parliamentary relations seminar, concluded in the Burundi capital Bujumbura last week, have identified significant gaps that need to be addressed in the bloc’s Common Market Protocol, as the partner states advance the regional integration process.
According to a communiqué issued by the EAC secretariat, members of the National Assemblies (parliaments) and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) need to understand the Protocol.
The five-day seminar (27-31 January) provided key stakeholders in the fledgling EAC, including members of national parliaments, an opportunity to discuss the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol, its prospects, challenges and opportunities.
To facilitate effective partnership between EALA and national parliaments to promote and popularise EAC integration as a people-driven process, the seminar has, among other measures, proposed popular use of Kiswahili in meetings and sensitization programmes.
Among the challenges facing the EAC, the seminar participants identified policy harmonization to drive the Common Market as placing limitations on Partner States to pursue independent economic policies.
In addition, they noted that the Community, as a legal person with own power, requires partner states to confer and cede some sovereignty to its institutions to achieve community objectives.
Besides challenges, the participants noted that the Common Market “presents prospects for greater regional capacity for growth and development, a strategic platform for competitive industrialisation and the opportunity to utilise our collective resources for the mutual benefit of our people.”
Also, they have proposed a communication information mechanism between EALA and national parliaments as a way of widening and deepening the EAC integration process for the equitable benefit of the people of East Africa.
A robust and comprehensive strategy of awareness creation and sensitisation on the EAC integration process should be urgently and effectively implemented by the EAC partner states, and other stakeholders, said the communiqué. At the same time, National Assemblies were urged to establish standing EAC Committees as a means to strengthening linkages between EALA and the National Assemblies.
The seminar was part of a series organised annually by the EAC partner states to strengthen the functional relationship between EALA and the National Assemblies and to widen and deepen knowledge of EAC and the integration process.