Your Excellency, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, Your Excellency, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Your Excellency, Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Your Excellency, Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
I wish to begin by thanking President Museveni for hosting the fifth extra-ordinary Summit of Heads of State of the East African Community. We are grateful for the warm welcome accorded to us since our arrival in your beautiful country.
This summit has special significance for our sister countries â€” Rwanda and Burundi, which have formally joined the community as full members today. This is an important milestone for our organisation. I commend my brothers, President Kagame and President Nkurunziza for their patience and persistence, which has resulted in the success we are witnessing today.
The accession of Rwanda and Burundi to the East African Community Treaty completes a missing link for our region.
The two countries are geographically, culturally and economically connected to this region, and we are therefore pleased to work closely with them in furthering the objectives of our community. This meeting also completes Kenyaâ€™s term as chair of the summit. During my tenure, I relied heavily on the co-operation and support accorded to me by Your Excellencies.
As a result of this support, the Community was able to make significant progress in the last one year one of which was the accession of our sister states of Rwanda and Burundi as full members.
The entry of Rwanda and Burundi is only matched by the momentous decision that President Museveni and former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Daniel arap Moi made in 1993 to renew regional integration by launching the East African Cooperation.
In 1999, President Museveni and former presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Daniel arap Moi signed the Treaty transforming East African Co-operation into the East African Community.
Our regionâ€™s economic and political prospects are growing bigger and brighter. With a land area of 1.9 million sq km of Africaâ€™s most productive and spectacular landscapes, a population of over 100 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of over $41b, the EAC has the potential to be a formidable regional economic and political power.
However, the integration of our region is not about economic benefits alone. It is about shared cultural and historic ties and to build a common and prosperous political future that transcends the borders imposed on us by the colonial authorities.
In this regard, we have made notable progress in the ongoing National Consultative Process on Fast Tracking the East African Federation. This process will allow the people of East Africa to have the final say in decision-making towards a political union.
The views expressed by our people, particularly on the timing, substance and structure of the East African Federation will be essential in buttressing the foundations for building an enduring and democratic political entity encompassing our five countries.
It is imperative to deepen the awareness and understanding among our people, especially the opinion leaders about the on-going integration of our region.
The EAC re-branding project should receive priority attention.
I wish to report that we also made commendable progress in regional cooperation. Last week we launched the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.
In the last one year, we also launched the third East African Community Development Strategy.
We must endeavour to attain the milestones laid out in the strategy, which include the consolidation of the customs union, the launching of the common market and the implementation of key and strategic infrastructure projects.
In this regard, I am pleased to note that the construction phase of the Arusha-Namanga-Athi River Road project will be starting soon.
There are new commissions covering a range of sectors, like the Science and Technology Commission, the Health Research Commission, the Civil Aviation Safety Agency, the Kiswahili Commission and the Culture and Sports Commission.
The successful implementation of these activities will mark a significant step in our efforts towards regional integration.
The community has undertaken a radical restructuring of the secretariat as well as the review of the terms and conditions of service of staff. The summit is paying close attention to the budgetary resource needs of the community. This is reflected not only in the envisaged increased contributions by the partner states, but also increased commitments by the development partners to the EACâ€™s recurrent and development budgets which have increased to $28.3m for the financial year 2007/2008, up from $18m in the current financial year.
To give the community greater reliability in finances, the East African community Partnership Fund was launched last year and is now operational.
We have also resolved the matter that led to a delay in the reconstitution of the second East African Legislative Assembly. The 27 members were recently sworn in Arusha. The assembly is now ready to embark on its duties of serving the East African people.
I am confident that what transpired provides critical lessons on the clearly defined roles that sovereign and regional institutions that make up the East African Community should play.
I wish to appeal for our continued rededication to the cause of East African unity and development.
Let me assure you that Kenya remains firmly committed to playing its part as we move forward towards deeper regional integration.
With these remarks, I take this opportunity to congratulate my brother President Museveni for assuming the chairmanship of our organisation and to wish him success in steering the EAC to greater heights of prosperity.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Our people should value regional integration