By Shem Bageine
As partner states of the East African Community progress towards a Monetary Union, the Ministry of East African Community Affairs (MEACA) has launched the Eriya Kategaya Memorial Lecture, in honour of the late statesman’s stewardship of the EAC integration process.
The lecture is meant to be an annual event to celebrate the life and achievements of the late Kategaya and his contribution towards the EAC integration process. It will also be an occasion to brainstorm on matters of East African Community integration which he espoused.
The inaugural occasion held on July 25, brought together eminent persons, in the academia, media, civil society and in the private sector. It was held under theme; “Towards Political Federation for East Africa: challenges and benefits.” It was a great honour for me to address the distinguished gathering.
Prior to his demise on March 2, 2013, Kategaya had mooted the idea of an eminent person’s forum to regularly deliberate on the matters of EAC integration.
The memorial lecture is thus the brainchild of my departed colleague and comrade, who believed in the need to create a think-tank to brainstorm and provide strategic feedback for catalysing the EAC integration processes.
He proposed that the Forum should form the nexus of high level regional integration advocacy group which should be given a platform to discuss and articulate what should be done to facilitate increased awareness and the participation of the citizenry to benefit from the EAC integration.
We also used the event as an opportunity to give updates on the recent developments in the integration process.
We have just concluded a meeting of the Sectoral Council on the EAC Monetary Union which has approved the Protocol for the establishment of the Monetary Union for signature by the Summit of the EAC Heads of State scheduled for November 2013 here in Kampala.
The Draft Protocol is now under consideration by the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs which is meeting in Bujumbura for legal input.
The Protocol for the establishment of the EAC Common Market grants a number of rights and freedoms which the ordinary citizenry are eager to enjoy. The pace of implementation has, however, not been to the mark owing largely to the delays in the alignment of national laws to facilitate these rights and freedoms.
Some ministries have also not provided the necessary recourses including funds to implement the various commitments under the Common Market Protocol. The implementation of the EAC Customs Union has also not been fully realised owing to a number of physical challenges and other procedural bureaucracies.
In terms of the implementation model for Uganda, it is important to note that EAC integration is very crucial to our economy and hence the need to have EAC integration issues mainstreamed in all sector plans and budgets.
This should help us in tracking progress but also to ensure that the various projects are being implemented within the agreed time lines.
It is important to note, for instance, that in line with the Summit directive of November 2012, MEACA has put in place a programme for undertaking stakeholder consultations on the model structure and roadmap for the establishment of the proposed East African Political Federation and we look forward to engaging Ugandans at an appropriate time for their input in this regard.
What then needs to be done is to accelerate the pace of implementation of the EAC regional integration agenda and how can we get all on board to make a positive contribution in process? Herein lies the challenge which should form the crux of our discourse on the future of then EAC.
I would like to take this opportunity to request that Ugandans reflect on these issues and tender appropriate recommendation to guide our march forward.
The writer is the Minister of State for East African Community Affairs (MEACA)