DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, May 21 – The East Africa Community has asked the European Union not to penalise Kenyan agricultural products exported to Europe.
A Heads of State summit in Dar es Salaam resolved to petition the EU on behalf of Kenya.
And it resolved to dispatch Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, the new EAC chairman to present Kenya’s case.
President Museveni, the new chairman of EAC, said his first assignment, is to harmonise the organization’s position on the Economic Partnership Agreement and EAC that allows countries in the region export its agricultural products to Europe without attracting tax.
Museveni told the 18th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of States held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Saturday, attended by Deputy President William Ruto on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta that EAC was committed to solving the stalemate surrounding the EU-EAC over EPA once and for all.
He however warned EU against punishing Kenya which has already signed the agreement.
“I want to assure this Summit that my first assignment is to lead a delegation to Brussels, Belgium, in my capacity as new chairman to give our stand on the matter as well as ask them not to punish Kenya on the matter as we come up with lasting solution to the problem,” said President Museveni.
“We object any move by EU to harm Kenya as far as EU-EAC issues are concerned. What we mean is that Kenya should not be disadvantaged since the country has already signed the agreement,” added President Museveni.
He said EAC is committed to harmonising the region’s stand on the European Union (EU-EAC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs)
Tanzania President, who is also the former immediate EAC chairman, John Pombe Magufuli was present.
Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda,), Salva Kiir (South Sudan) and Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) were represented in the Summit whose theme was ‘towards sustainable growth and development of the community’.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretaries Phyllis Kandie (East African Affairs), Aden Mohammed (Industrialization), MPs Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), Muthomi Njuki (Igamba Ngombe), Joyce Lay (Women Rep, Taita Taveta), Abdulraman Hassan (Wajir) and Leonard Sang (Bureti) also attended the meeting.
Museveni who took over the leadership of EAC Summit from Mr Magufuli who has been chairman since 2015 said EAC integration was about prosperity, security and unity of all citizens in the region.
Earlier, during the closed session, Ruto asked EAC governments to urgently address non-tariff barriers that have become stumbling block to cross-border trade in the region.
The Deputy President said it was essential for the respective governments to boost cross-border trading, movement of goods and manpower and address the fundamental issue of non-tariff barriers across the region.
He said unless EAC governmnets worked together in addressing challenges facing the region, the gains which have been made so far could be eroded.
Ruto said there was no need for EAC governmnets to engage in activties aimed at undermining and blockig each other saying doing so the could be for the benefit of outsiders.
“While we fight and block each other, our businesses are struggling and our import bills is growing. We need to stop this misdirected competition that only benefits outsiders,” said Ruto.
“We started well and we need to keep the promise to our people. It is unfortunate that in recent years, as we heard today, our internal market is shrinking behind the various blockades through non-tariff barriers and other blocks,” said Ruto.
President Magufuli said although he did not find a lasting solution to the EU-EAC trade deal, he said he was optimistic that the issue would soon be solved.
“Although I didn’t find lasting solution to the EU-EAC trade deal, I am optimistic that the new chairman will solve the impasse with the support of all of us,” said President Magufuli.
He said unity remains key to the success of EAC integration.
“For us to achieve the goals of EAC, we must unite and work as a team in solving the problems facing this region as well as accelerating the integration process,” said Mr Magufuli.
Museveni said EAC was committed to solving insecurity challenges being witnessed in South Sudan and Burundi.
He said stability in the region was important for the economic growth of the citizens.