KIGALI, RWANDA, June 27 – President Mwai Kibaki has supported ongoing negotiations among the East African Community Member States to set up a protocol to facilitate free movement of people, goods and services in the region.
President Kibaki made the remarks on Thursday while addressing the 9th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State in Kigali, Rwanda.
"Indeed, I am happy to note that negotiations on the Common Market Protocol have started. When concluded, this protocol will facilitate free movement of persons, labour, services and capital, while also addressing the rights of establishment and residence," said President Kibaki.
The Head of State noted that the Summit came at a time when the EAC integration process had gathered momentum particularly after the establishment of the Customs Union and the enlargement of the regional economic bloc upon the admission of Rwanda and Burundi into the Community.
President Kibaki observed that the current size and potential of the regional economic bloc had tremendously improved the attractiveness of the EAC region for business and investment.
"Moreover, the admission of Rwanda and Burundi to the Community has further enlarged our regional economic bloc, creating a market of about 120 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of nearly 47 billion US Dollars," remarked President Kibaki.
He commended the institutional expansion of the Community following the establishment of the Kiswahili Commission, the Science and Technology Commission, the Health Research Commission and the East African Civil Aviation Safety and Oversight Agency.
Thanking the Council of Ministers and the East African Community Secretariat for the remarkable progress, President Kibaki, however, cautioned that the key challenges lay ahead and urged them to rededicate their efforts for the success of the integration.
With regard to East African Federation, the President said that the National Consultative Process revealed that the majority of East African citizens support the formation of the East African Political Federation.
President Kibaki observed, "Our responsibility and obligation to the people of East Africa is to put in place modalities to facilitate realization of their cherished aspirations of living together as one people in unity, peace and prosperity. The establishment of an East African Political Federation will, therefore, be key to the realization of our hopes of uniting our people."
The Head of State further advocated for broadened participation of the citizens of the partner states in order to achieve a people-driven and people centred integration process.
He said, "In a people-driven and people centred integration process such as the East African Community, the people should not only be informed, but they should also be actively involved in the process of integration. This will help to broaden the thinking of our people and cultivate patriotism towards the Community."
The Head of State also called for extensive awareness campaigns to create enlightenment of core issues and ensure that the East African people identify with and have a sense of ownership of the community.
"Accordingly, there is need to aggressively enlighten the people of East Africa on the benefits that will accrue from integration," said the Head of State.
During the occasion, President Kibaki said that Kenya had overcome the post election challenges that the country faced at the beginning of this year and reiterated his commitment and that of the grand coalition partners in instituting reforms intended to anchor national cohesion and stability of the country eternally.
He at the same time regretted that the crisis had adversely affected EAC member states but noted with satisfaction that Kenya had emerged a stronger democracy with the formation of the Grand Coalition Government and thanked the partner states for their intervention and support during the difficult period.
President Kibaki further re-affirmed Kenya’s commitment to the East African integration process and his deep conviction that the Community would act as the vehicle to facilitate rapid economic development for the region and its people.
Speaking during the same occasion, outgoing EAC chairman, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda told the participants that his country’s trade with partner states had increased tremendously due to deepened commitment to the integration process.
He challenged the partner states to desist from fear of trading with each other adding that each EAC member had comparative advantage in respective sectors of the economy which formed the basis of mutual complementarity in trade.
Incoming EAC Chairman and President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, promised to serve the people of East Africa with dedication to attain the level of expectation of the Community.
President Kagame appealed for the continued support of the other Heads of State to achieve the vision of a prosperous, united and fully integrated region and improve the living standards of the EAC nationals.
President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania termed the Summit a historical event because it was the first to be held outside the capitals of the original three partner states and that finally the vision of EAC founding fathers had been realized by admitting Rwanda and Burundi.
President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi said that as a mark of commitment to the integration process his Government was in the process of conducting a national assessment of the level of awareness among the citizens of Burundi about the East African Community.