NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 16 – The Ministry of East African Community (MEAC) has said discussions on the regional integration process will be affected if Kenya is not represented in scheduled meetings following a travel ban on ministers.
Minister Amason Kingi told reporters on Tuesday that the recent directive by President Mwai Kibaki prohibiting ministers from going on any foreign trip to enable them participate in the ongoing Constitution debate might be misconstrued to mean that Kenya lacks the political will and commitment to drive the integration agenda.
According to the EAC treaty, a quorum constitutes representatives from all partner States in the regional meetings.
“This ban means that no minister can attend any EAC meeting and this means we are holding the integrating process for the period of the review of our Constitution. This can be construed to mean that Kenya is very casual on matters of EAC,” he said.
He added that they had communicated their concerns to the relevant authorities in a bid to have some Cabinet ministers exempted from the presidential directive and hoped to get a favourable response this week.
If they don’t get the go-ahead, Mr Kingi regretted that they would have to call Arusha where a Sectoral Council on Trade and Finance conference is scheduled to take place on Friday and ask them to postpone the meeting.
“We are five of us (member States) so if we have a meeting this week in Nairobi, then the next we should be in Arusha, Kampala, Bujumbura or Kigali because this is done on a rotational basis and so we cannot have a monopoly of meeting,” he told a media workshop where he said that the ministry was waiting to the discussion and eventual approval of the cabinet memo on the ratification of the Common Market Protocol which is expected to come into force in July.
He however allayed fears that the 30 day-ban would affect the implementation of the protocol which seeks to transform the region into a single market with immense opportunities for the citizens and the business community.
As the region inches closer to a political federation as envisaged in the Treaty, various organs and institutions are bound to be created with the challenge of where they will be headquartered.
The partner States have agreed to leave the existing ones in the current locations while new institutions that will be formed henceforth will be equitably with priority given to the EAC new entrants Rwanda and Burundi.
During the media workshop which is part of a sensitisation campaign that the ministry is carrying out through out the country to educate Kenyans on the benefits they stand to accrue from the integration process, the minister hinted at a possibility of a referendum in the EAC region to seek people’s views on the proposed political federation.
Political federation is the ultimate objective of the process which will see member states cede sovereignty to the new body which might raise fears and concerns among East Africans.