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Kenya’s flag flies in Burundi

NAIROBI, May 14 – The government has strengthened its diplomatic ties with Burundi following the opening of an Embassy in the capital Bujumbura on Wednesday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula opened the mission.

President Mwai Kibaki authorized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish the Embassy in September last year.

The task of setting up the Embassy was initialized in November last year and finalised in December.

The Embassy is housed at the P.T.A Bank Building in Bujumbura’s Central Business District.

President Kibaki, who is also the Chairman of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region appointed Wetang’ula, as Special Envoy to convey a special message to President Pierre Nkurunziza during the opening of the Embassy.

Burundi is struggling to wind up a civil war between government forces and rebels that began in 1993 and has claimed some 300,000 lives.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from newcomers Rwanda and Burundi were sworn in Tuesday as members of the East African Parliament as the regional assembly gathered in Nairobi.

Rwanda and Burundi joined the East African Community (EAC) in July 1997, expanding its membership to five and creating a wider market. Initially, the bloc was made up of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, whose MPs took oath in June last year.

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Nine representatives from each of the two newcomers took an oath before the East Africa Legislative Assembly, the lawmaking wing of the EAC.

Speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly Kenneth Marende, who chaired the session, urged the 45-member assembly to expedite laws that would speed up members’ ambitions of forming a federation.

The EAC countries plan to hold referendum by September 2009 on adopting a common currency by the end of 2009 and formally creating a federation with a President, Cabinet, Parliament and Supreme Court by January 2010.

Originally established in 1967, the EAC collapsed a decade later amidst deteriorating ties and diverging economic philosophies. The relative economic strength of Kenya also eroded the viability of the union.

It was resurrected in 2000 as leaders of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania agreed to create a European Union-style common market for the 90 million citizens to strengthen their economic and political clout.

With the new members, the region now has a land area of 1.9 million square kilometres, a population of around 115 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than 41 billion dollars.


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