Co-operation in the eastern part of African is not new. Documented cooperation among the East African Community countries can be traced back to over a century ago.
During the post-independence period desire for integration led to the establishment of the East African Community in 1967. This Community however collapsed a decade later in 1977 due to various reasons, chief among them being the ideological and economic policy differences.
This was followed by its formal dissolution in 1983 with sharing of assets and liabilities guided by the Mediation Agreement signed in 1984. The dissolution was a sad and final option, considering that then, the Community was one of the most advanced regional integration arrangements in the world.
The Mediation Agreement of 1984, however, gave a window for future cooperation among the three countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This window was in fact to be utilised much later!
On the fringes of the Commonwealth Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1991, the then leaders of the three East African countries met and agreed on laying the ground for the revival of the community.
The desire for revival was informed by one of the key world phenomenon: the globalisation of the world economy which meant that under a liberalized trade regime, countries had no better option than to team up together under a regional integration arrangement.
It for example became obvious that the neighbouring countries continued to be significant trading partners to each other. On the other hand, the East African countries continued to face stiff competition from more advanced economies in the world trade.
Following this initial meeting a number of steps were taken. First, the three Heads of State of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda signed a communiqué in Nairobi later that year and set up a Committee of Ministers for Foreign Affairs to work out the modalities of reviving cooperation.
Second, the leaders signed an agreement for the East African Co-operation in 1993 and institutionalised the process by establishing the Permanent Tripartite Commission to spearhead the revival of cooperation. This brought to an end 13 years of separation among the neighbouring countries characterized by suspicion and tensions.
Third, was the setting up of the Secretariat of the Permanent Tripartite Commission in 1996 with its Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. Upon consultation, it was agreed that Kenya would appoint to the Secretariat a team leader to spearhead the revival of the integration process.
Fourth and more critical was the signing of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African "Community (EAC) on 30th November 1999. The Treaty came into effect in July 2000 upon ratification by the three Partner States.
As is the trend the world over in regional economic blocs have been experiencing expansion, the EAC has experienced growth in membership with the accession of Rwanda and Burundi in 2007. Other neighbouring countries have also expressed interest in joining the Community. In addition, the economies of the five Partner States combined has significantly grown to a combined GDP of about US$80 billion.
The main goal of establishing EAC is underpinned by the desire of the EAC Partner States to attain sustainable and equitable growth and development that in turn improves the standard of living of the people through increased competitiveness, value-added production, trade and investment.
According to the Treaty, the objective of the EAC is to develop policies and programmes aimed at widening and deepening co-operation in economic, political, social and cultural integration for mutual benefits for all Partner States.
This was envisaged to be achieved through the establishment of a customs union which was to be an entry stage, then a common market, monetary union and ultimately a political federation. The integration process is further spearheaded through 17 areas of cooperation within which numerous milestones and drivers are incorporated. These are achieved through negotiated protocols, of which 13 have been concluded and several more are being negotiated.
Attainment of the EAC\’s objectives is premised on sustainable growth and equitable development of the region and include rational utilization of the region\’s natural resources and protection of the environment. In this regard, the Treaty provides for fundamental principles of mutual trust; equitable distribution of benefits; people-centred; and private sector-led integration process.
The long-standing political, economic, social, cultural and traditional ties and associations between the Partner States in promoting people-centred development have been emphasized. These are some of the golden rules of governance that the Treaty bequeaths to EAC citizens.
The Treaty provision of the principal of equitability is demonstrated in the rotational appointment of its leadership. From the 1st Summit held on 15th January 2001 to the latest Summit held in December 2010, this principal of rotational appointment has remained at the centre. To this effect the Chairmanship of the Summit of the Heads of States has rotated smoothly over this period, a show of maturity of the process.
In December 2010 the Republic of Burundi assumed chairmanship of the Summit. Parallel to this, Article 67 (1) of the Treaty provides for appointment of the Secretary General by the Summit of the Heads of State under the principal of rotation. Section (4) of the same Article states that the Secretary General who shall be nominated by the relevant Head of State, shall serve a fixed five year term.
Since the ratification of the Treaty in July 2000 two Secretary Generals have served the Community. The first came from Uganda (2001-2006) and the current one whose term expires in April 2011, comes from Tanzania (2006-2011).
Under the watch of the Summit, the two Secretary Generals have provided excellent leadership to the Community by successfully guiding the realization of important milestones namely: the Customs Union established through a protocol in 2005 to provide for movement of goods and services in the Community; and the establishment of the EAC Common Market in July 2010, to provide for free movement of services, labour and capital; and right of establishment and residence in the Community, among many other achievements. The wise counsel of the Summit will always guide the Community in the execution and realization of the principals set out in the Treaty.
Mr Nalo is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of EA Cooperation