Arusha: EALA yesterday debated and approved four key reports and sought answers from the EAC Council of Ministers on a number of priority questions in a busy day of sitting.
First to be debated on was the Report of the sixth Inter-Parliamentary Relations Seminar (Nanyuki Series) held in Bujumbura, Burundi in November last year. The report presented by Hon Abdulkarim Harelimana, brought to fore commendable progress realised by the region in the quest towards a Political Federation. The mover told the august House that the integration process was half-way and some of the fears that existed at the initial phase of the Customs Union had been removed and tangible benefits realized.
The report made notice of the benefits of the Common Market Protocol calling for its speedy implementation. It noted that there was a need to address outstanding fears and challenges standing in the way of the Political Federation. Such, Hon Harelimana remarked, included: loss of national sovereignty; dilution of national languages; diversity in governance systems and practices and possibility of spill-over of bad governance practices.
During debate, Members supported the role played by the seminar in sharing experiences between and among the National Assemblies.
The Assembly also received and debated on the EAC Annual Report 2007/2008 and the corresponding Annual Report of 2008/2009. Both reports reflect the performance of the Community during the years, successes of the period and corresponding challenges faced. The key achievements include among others; the integration of the Republics of Burundi and Rwanda into the Community, the negotiations of the Common Market Protocol and achievements in the key human and social dimensions to the integration agenda.
Contributing to the debate, Hon Bernard Mulengani noted the improvement of the reporting by the Community but urged the economic bloc's Secretariat to seek to submit timely information so as to influence the subsequent year's budgeting processes.
On matters related to tourism, Hon Safina Kwekwe urged the region to enhance its effort towards single tourism destination marketing lamenting that at the previous global tourism fairs, Partner States often participated individually.
"This is the time to market the region aggressively as one. We must instead opt for an EAC Stand during the Berlin or London Tourism Fairs as opposed to individual countries, Hon Kwekwe stated.
The Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution Committee presented the Report on the on-spot assessment of the status of implementation on the Common Market Protocol projects in border posts. The border posts visited by the Committee in November 2011 were the Rusumo/Ngara point on the Rwanda and Tanzania border and the Sirari/Isebania on the Kenya and Tanzania border.
The report indicates that in both areas visited, all stakeholders were appreciative of the integration process. However, the report states that it was apparent that majority of the people did not have sufficient knowledge of the operations of the Common Market Protocol. A good number of representatives of the business community were also unaware of the Certificate of Origin, a key document facilitating cross-border trade.
Debating the report, Members called on the Ministries of the EAC in the respective Partner States to consider opening offices at the border points to foster exchange of information. Such a move, they argued, would contribute to the strengthening of the integration process.
During question time, Hon Nusura Tiperu requested to find out whether the basis of moving from one stage to another in the integration process was informed by the pros and cons of the previous stage. The legislator further sought to find out if the EAC carries out a cost-benefit analysis before embarking on the stages of integration.
In response, Hon Peter Munya, Assistant Minister for EAC, Kenya, remarked that theory and empirical studies had continued to inform the benefits of integration. He noted that in 2009, an evaluation of the implementation of the Customs Union carried out revealed a number of benefits accruing the Partner States, challenges notwithstanding. The Minister informed the House that EAC had among other areas realized increased trade, increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), revenue and increased cross-border investments as a result of the integration process.
Hon Margaret Zziwa Nantongo sought to find out the status of the implementation of the East African Railway Authority, a supra national body envisaged to reinstate and develop modern railway services to the peoples of East Africa. In response, the Minister informed the House that a feasibility study was already underway with a view to clarifying the roadmap, sustainable mechanisms of the envisaged Authority and its mandate in terms of railway investments, tariffs, inter-connectivity and environmental protection.
Responding to a question on food security tabled by Hon Kate Kamba, the Council of Ministers stated that an EAC Food and Security Action Plan (2011-2015) had been developed and adopted for implementation. Hon Munya however noted that lack of sufficient resources was hindering the process of implementation and that resource mobilization was underway.
Parliament shall today resume the debate on the Customs Management (Amendment) Bill, 2012 and the Community Emblems (Amendment) Bill 2012 which was interrupted yesterday. The EAC HIV and Prevention Management Bill is also on the order paper to be debated.
* African Press Organization