NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 6 – Experts have underscored the importance of Kenyans’ participation in the East African integration process as the country is embarking on the implementation of the new Constitution.
Kenya’s representative at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Gervase Akhaabi called for the establishment of mechanisms to link the political leadership in Kenya with the people at the grassroot level in order to sensitise them about the integration agenda and relay their wishes to the East African Community (EAC) decision-making organs.
“People must participate in making this integration process truly people-centered. There’s a need to disseminate the workings and opportunities of the EAC to the grassroot level,” he emphasised during a media briefing on the EAC.
Private sector and people’s participation in the formulation of polices that affect them, he pointed out, would be key in integrating the devolved system of government that the country has adopted under the new law into the provisions of the EAC Treaty, which was entered into before the counties were even contemplated.
“There ought to be continuous dialogue with the private sector and civil society both at national and the EAC levels. At national level, this must also include dialogue with people at the counties,” he emphasised.
Under the Treaty, the responsibility of policy making is vested in the Council of Ministers that is made up of Cabinet Ministers from the partner States. In Kenya under the new document, the Cabinet will not be picked from Parliament but largely from qualified professionals.
“That means that unless the people in Kenya are made to participate from the very beginning in policy formulation, what goes on at the EAC level may end up to be decisions and policies made by the executive only,” he warned.
While acknowledging that many Kenyans are still not aware of the benefits that they can accrue from the EAC or how they can do it, Mr Akhaabi however conceded that legislators representing Kenya at EALA had a big role to play in creating awareness about EAC.
“We have a responsibility to liaise with the national parliament and bring the EAC agenda to the assembly. The national parliament and the county assemblies have an equal responsibility to take the agenda to the people of Kenya through the debates in Parliament,” he added.
On its part however, the government has taken the initiative to facilitate this process. EAC Permanent Secretary David Nalo said they were embarking on an exercise that would see the government analyse how various policies outlined in the new constitution could be aligned to those of the neighbours.
Provisions in the new law such as dual citizenship and the creation of counties, the PS said need to be harmonised to ensure that they are consistent with those of the region and thus ease the free movement of people, goods and services and capital as envisioned in the Common Market Protocol.
“We have put together a proposal to the Kenya Law Reform Commission and the State Law Office and we are working on a gap-analysis to ascertain how the new legislation will impact the Common Market Protocol and the Treaty on various protocols,” said Mr Nalo.
According to the Treaty, there are 17 areas in which the EAC partner States have agreed to cooperate but in Kenya some of the functions in those fields have been devolved to the counties, raising fears that there might be a policy clash.
The PS however assured that the government was keen to ensure that counties do not come formulate legislations that are in contradiction with the provisions of the EAC Treaty.