, ENTEBBE, Uganda, Aug 9 – Progressive integration holds the key to the common prosperity of citizens of the East African Community (EAC) member states, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
He said joint efforts by EAC leaders have successfully put in place various instruments to eliminate trade barriers, increase economic prosperity and realize the dream of an East African Political Federation.
President Kenyatta spoke on Saturday night during a state banquet hosted in his honour by President Yoweri Museveni at Entebbe State House, Uganda in his inaugural state visit.
The President said collective efforts, including contacts at the highest levels, have accelerated consolidation of friendly relations and growth in trade and commercial interaction.
“As we move forward with this agenda, it is my hope, belief and prayer that with the kind of deepening cooperation witnessed in our lifetime, we may live to see a true East African Federation. Federation where people of the region stand together, work together and share the prosperity that God has given us,” said President Kenyatta.
He challenged bureaucrats to formulate policies that facilitate integration rather than hinder East Africans from doing business and communicating with each other.
“We were chatting our bilateral way forward when bureaucrats started telling us about legal aspects as concerns movement of certain goods and services. I reminded them that if you go across to Busia or Namanga on the border with Tanzania, these people don’t recognize what you are doing in Nairobi and Kampala, they are moving and doing business freely,” said President Kenyatta.
The President urged government officials to reduce bureaucracy and facilitate people to deepen cooperation instead of introducing hurdles that hinder progress.
“We should be moving towards governments that facilitate their people to do what is naturally theirs,” he added.
President Kenyatta pointed out that the two sister states of Kenya and Uganda need to learn from past challenges and fast track integration for the benefit of all EAC member states.
He regretted that artificial boundaries created by the colonialist had become the main source of conflict in Africa.
“Our mission as leaders today is to devise means of removing these boundaries to enable our people co-exist as one, solving a common problem and enjoying shared prosperity,” said the President.
President Kenyatta observed that the solution to challenges facing the African continent are within the ability of its leaders who should rise above partisan interests and forge a common front on the problems.
“I am here with my delegation to see how we can share ideas, opportunities and collaborate in resolving the problems that we face,” he emphasized.
The President said Kenya and Uganda have made much progress in accelerating integration but more efforts are required to ensure all EAC member states move together in deepening cooperation as a region.
On his part, President Museveni thanked former Presidents Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya and Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania for resurrecting the idea of shared prosperity.
He said East African Cooperation is based on the foundation of shared prosperity and commended President Kenyatta for adding impetus to faster integration.
“When President Kenyatta came to the scene, he asked a question which lingered in my mind for a long time. Why should a container of goods from the port of Mombasa to Kampala take 18 days?” President Museveni posed.
He said through President Kenyatta, efficiency has been enhanced at the port of Mombasa drastically reducing time taken to process and transport cargo from the port to Kampala from 18 to 3 days.
President Museveni noted that with the efforts to modernize railway infrastructure, containers will take only 24 hours to Uganda.
President Museveni said his government will continue collaborating with Kenya to ensure sustainable regional peace and security, which are important aspects in development.
He said the two countries have closely worked together in stabilizing Somalia and are also at the forefront in sorting out issues facing South Sudan.
He said Ugandans will forever be grateful to the nations which stood with them to overcome their past challenges and singled out Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia for being true friends to his country.
The banquet was also attended by First Ladies Margaret Kenyatta and Janet Museveni, and senior government officials of the two nations.